Ron Paul says, of the public debate following the most recent shooting in a school in the USA:

Many Americans believe that if we simply pass the right laws, future horrors like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting can be prevented.  But this impulse ignores the self evident truth that criminals don’t obey laws.

But they don’t believe that, do they?

There’s a tendency, everywhere, to think that people who disagree with us are idiots. Comment threads on blogs mean I can’t deny some are, whatever the politics. But in the main they’re not. If they haven’t mixed with people who have other ideas, they can have unexamined opinions, but most people of an opposing view are reasonably rational about it. And that’s true whatever your politics are.

Nobody thinks that making guns illegal will mean every criminal meekly hands in their weapons. Gun control advocates think that reducing the availability of legal firearms will reduce the availability of illegal ones, that it will more or less eliminate very public mass murders – which do seem to be carried out with legally-held weapons.

There’s also an aesthetic. Some people viscerally detest the thought of people having guns. It presents a landscape they find appalling. That means it isn’t rational. Equally, other people pose with assault rifles and go to the shooting range, hunt, wear cammo clothing. That’s equally visceral and equally not rational.

Neither is irrational, they’re just not born of reason.

From what I can see, there’s a very irregular pattern in the world of gun ownership against factors of suicide, murder, other crime. This post isn’t about that evidence. As it happens, I tend towards thinking people should be able to own handguns, rifles and shotguns, but not assault rifles or ground-to-air missiles. But this isn’t a religious view, I’m open to persuasion.

This post is about not assuming, or pretending, that people who disagree with you are idiots. Because it gets in the way. We should want the best outcome, however that’s achieved.

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Take this:

Or this:

What do they have in common? Both are designed to demonise political opponents. Both were tweeted by collectivists. Both are extreme distortions of the truth, if not outright, deliberate lies.

This behaviour has a pedigree. In the twentieth century, collectivist states murdered something like 150 million of their own citizens, neighbours butchering neighbours. You can’t do that without demonisation.

This isn’t a historical problem. Democide, the mass murder of citizens by their own government, has continued into the twenty-first century. Democide relies on the transformation of people with political, national or ethnic differences into distorted boogymen whose imaginary evil provides – is the only thing that could provide – the necessary degree of justification required for the commission of righteous atrocities.

So this matters. This sort of inaccurate caricaturing of political opponents should be challenged wherever it’s seen. Most people are trying to do their best. Few greens or socialists want everyone shackled to human-drawn ploughs in agrarian communes (though after sufficient demonisation of the bourgeoisie that has happened); few conservatives or libertarians want to step over poor sick people in the street. Dehumanising people just because you disagree with them is dangerous and destructive.

And that is what both of the above tweets were doing.

Take the first. Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) founded the cross-party Centre for Social Justice in 2004 (current Chairman, Labour’s David Blunkett).  He is passionate about the problems of Britain’s socially disadvantaged. Whether you agree with his policies is one thing, but the suggestion he would ever wish to destroy the welfare state is grotesque. Michael Gove, influenced by his own difficult start in life, is passionate about improving the educational chances of the poor. Again, you might disagree with his policies, but to suggest he wants to destroy the educational system – wants to destroy it – is a bizarre distortion of reality.

But what of people who did want to destroy welfare and education? Why, rounding them up, smashing their spectacles and making them do menial agricultural work could be a form of justice.

As for the second tweet, it turns out that Republican voters in the USA, a group that includes some people with strongly libertarian tendencies, give more of their time and money to charitable causes than do Democrat voters. It might be that some Objectivists associate weakness with altruism, but there aren’t many of those about, and Rand loathed libertarianism, holding it in contempt. Libertarians actually believe in self-ownership and in the principle that one should never initiate violence. All else stems from those principles. They can get a bit silly, and their isolationism is unattractive, to me, but they are not sociopaths.

Sociopaths, of course, are dangerous. We shouldn’t allow them unrestricted freedom. Maybe we could re-educate them in special camps?

Incidentally, there’s a context to that second tweet. Note the reference to Atheism Plus. This is a newish group that wants to combine atheism with far-left student politics. It has emerged from the extremely funny contemporary sceptical movement that grew up around Richard Dawkins, James Randi, PZ Myers and others – funny because the one thing you absolutely can’t be, if you want to be a part of it, is sceptical. There are a set of ideas that many of its most vocal figures are stridently adamant must be held. Indeed, Atheism Plus is a reaction to the fact that some atheists and sceptics disagree with some of the strident folks’ political opinions. More on this in another post but, for now, enjoy the spectacle of a sceptical movement splintering because some of its members are sceptical and the others don’t like that.

Back to the demonisation. Have you noticed that this relies on collectivism? Individuals don’t get demonised, it would be exhausting to single enough individual people out to wind up with a decent-sized massacre. Instead it’s Tories, Commies, Moslems, Christians, Jews, Catholics, brown people, white people, men, women – always groups. Always Jews too, but that’s another story.

Individualism – originally a synonym for Liberalism – is being attacked in both those tweets. Both IDS and Gove are driven by determination not to treat people as members of a disposable group, not to accept that there’s a natural underclass that will always need to be supported by the rest of society.

They don’t want an affluent, powerful public sector managing the throwing of money at permanent failure, glowing with the warmth of the bloated self-esteem that comes from – or perhaps leads to – imagining anyone who disagrees with what you’re doing is simply evil, that they can’t have a reasoned and possibly reasonable political position.

Atheism Plus says of itself (link above):

Atheism Plus is a term used to designate spaces, persons, and groups dedicated to promoting social justice and countering misogyny, racism, homo/bi/transphobia, ableism and other such bigotry inside and outside of the atheist community.

The bigotries mentioned all depend on collectivisation. If people are treated simply as individuals without group membership, by the state, then no such discrimination can be possible. Instead, Atheism Plus, though at an early stage, seems to be from the political wing that is most obsessive about group membership, some even on a par with racial separatists.

Bigotry comes from these divisions, it isn’t solved by them. Bigotry was on display in the tweets I started with. The civilised approach to differences of opinion is to debate them, not to attack, unjustly, inaccurately, people who hold different views.

And the first views to question are your own.

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A letter to my MP:

Dear Mr Paice,

I write as one of your constituents.

I know there are different views about the role of government. I generally vote conservative because I see in your party the closest match to my own, which is of a government that holds the ring in which private citizens conduct their business. I feel the government should maintain law and order and national defence, uphold contracts and agreements and provide a safety net welfare state.

The recent coalition proposal that ISPs retain all electronic communications that pass through their networks is, quite simple, a proposal to abolish the private citizen entirely.

It is profoundly illiberal (in the original and correct sense) and extraordinary coming from a party that, in opposition, fought against the Labour Party’s more predictable addiction to general precautionary surveillance.

It seems to me proof that we are actually governed by a semi-hereditary class of authoritarian civil servants who ‘capture’ new administrations, whatever their best intentions might have been in opposition.

I hope you will vote against this measure.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Risdon.

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Speaking of the Libertarian Alliance, how does a political movement expect to be taken seriously when this is the sort of thing a reader encounters?

At a time when the English Monarchy is facing more threats than for three centuries, from inside its own polity, yet it pulls a rabbit out of a hat, and we may survive. Its Principal male Heir, a popular and good-looking, and by all accounts, a sound intelligent young man (who has been to Sandhurst and may get the Sword of Honour, which is no mean thing I can tell you, and the Army is one of the last unvandalised institutions which is fair and upright) has got a “nice middle-class girl” for his girlfriend, whom he “met at Uni”, which is what they all aspire to do now. Yes, the English monarchy may, yet, triumph again, over changing habits and mores, re-inventing itself to stay the head of this curious, brilliant, yet just now I fear, sleeping, nation. This time, the sleep “may” have been “criminally induced” by its present “Nazi masters”, rather than form outside. I could stomach the EU if its “directives” were enforced locally with the same spirit and zeal that they seem to be on the continental mainland, which is not much – but there is of course another agenda at work in the UK, by our home-Nazis, who have been educated in the past 20 years+ under a curriculum which I intend to dissect in my rducation posts here.

Even without their Godwin Award, the last two sentences are exquisite.

[Yes, it’s an old post but it’s linked to from the current front page]

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A few libertarian bloggers have given up recently : Obo, arguably Mr E counts, and the DevilChris Mounsey, who is outgoing leader of the Libertarian Party UK. They seemed depressed, not thrilled with the coalition but no longer furious. Depressed, perhaps, by the proof the coalition gave that none of the main parties are in any way libertarian, whatever they might pay lip service to.

The Libertarian Party has been a big disappointment. For decades, the Libertarian Alliance had been pamphleting away, rising above party politics, seeing itself in a position comparable to that of socialists in 1870. It was the long road, making the argument, winning one mind at a time, arguing against every new restriction on our freedoms, from the seat belt ban in the 1980s to the ban on smoking in public places.

That particular ban had a surprising and temporary effect in the pub I was drinking in at the time. It came in during the summer so it was no hardship to migrate outside to the smoking shack. But in there, unprecedentedly, people found they were facing, across the table, each other. Conversation ensued. Politics came up. There were some surprisingly well-informed people sitting round the table but nobody – not one single person – had even heard of libertarianism.

That was the effect of a quarter century of LA campaigning: doodly squat. Nobody had even heard of them. Around that pub table, they’d have been pushing at an open door, a majority even wanted firearms to be legalised. But the LA hadn’t even turned up, for these people.

So the launch of LPUK was good news, now there was a political party to spread the word. After all, what would be the point of forming a political party if you weren’t going to do party politics?

I don’t know the answer to that question, but someone in LPUK must, because that’s what they’ve done.

Political parties aren’t think tanks. Doctrinal purity is a handicap. What matters, the only thing that matters, is having an effect, moving something in the right direction. Not everything, that’s not going to happen, but something. And then something else. For a new party with a philosophy very different from any other in mainstream politics, this means getting the thin end of a wedge in somewhere, finding things that will strike a chord with people, that will be an open door, when pushed against.

So LPUK announced its first manifesto promise: to legalise firearms. Not every pub is a rural one like my former local; not every table has several gun owners sitting round it. I agree with this policy and I’ve tried arguing it with people. It’s a hard one to get through, there are so many reflexive objections, it takes time. It’s not an open door.

Was the tactical intention to cause a fuss? Did they think the press release would be taken notice of? If so, they didn’t take into account the number of crank press releases that are received every day. Legalising firearms? People we’ve never heard of? Bin it.

But was there even a tactical intention, or was this an expression of doctrinal purity? I ask because the notorious car crash of an interview between Chris Mounsey and Andrew Neill suggests no forethought at all. It wasn’t so much that Mounsey made such a ham fist of it, it was the obvious fact that they hadn’t even considered the possibility that his blog would come up in the conversation.

Any group of people who were actually serious about making a political challenge would have planned for that interview. They would have thought about the hard questions and come up with broadcast-friendly ways to handle them effectively.

Their blog is, at the moment, filled with posts about the difficulties the leader-elect is facing as a consequence of a business dispute. Who cares? Really? Maybe there’s a powerful story there, but I’m buggered if I can see it through the mounds of verbiage. There’s nothing crisp, soundbittten, memorable. This isn’t serious.

Why, though? Far from being a cause for despondency, the coalition should be energising. First, great! Fantastic! Labour isn’t in power, there’s talk of a repeal bill, some tightening of expenditure. Brilliant. Don’t carp because they’re not libertarians. Of course they’re not libertarians, they didn’t say they were. Oh, I know Cameron used the word, but he’s also progressive and traditional. He’s whatever’s right at the time. And that’s an asset for a politician. LPUK doesn’t have to be like that, but it does have to move in that world as a shark, rather than as a snack for Andrew Neill.

More importantly, perhaps, the coalition does disenfranchise a lot of libertarian-minded people and, if they have confidence in their arguments, LPUK should be confident they can persuade others who are not yet so minded. It’s an opportunity. There’s a vacancy, for a political party that represents classical liberalism and libertarianism because, just as all political parties are coalitions, that’s the coalition LPUK needs to forge. I think it’s, potentially, a big one.

It ain’t going to happen at the moment, though. LPUK needs a complete change of approach. It needs to be calculating, prepared, rehearsed. It needs to pick targets and these will often be local issues. There are also some national ones – how about championing the thousands made insolvent by tax every year? Why not learn tactics from Greenpeace? Why not take the whole thing seriously?

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Iain Dale and Guido, among others, are upset by the decision to give prisoners the vote that has followed a campaign by John Hirst, who is out on licence after serving 25 years in gaol, 15 for killing an elderly woman with an axe and 10 for being an ass while in prison. Hirst has uploaded a video to YouTube, which can be seen at either of those links, in which he celebrates the news with champagne and a joint.

Hirst campaigned, and won, so it’s not surprising he celebrated. Lighting a spliff on video while on licence might have been a mistake, but he is presumeably calculating that nobody can prove there was cannabis in it. Bravado, I expect he’s planning to call it.

Dale is worried that prisoners’ votes could sway results in marginal Parliamentary seats. Maybe. If so, it’ll be likely that the sway will be in the direction of Dale’s Conservatives; prisoners are a reactionary bunch.

I’m glad this has happened. I’d like the franchise to be genuinely universal. Lunatics, prisoners – even members of the House of Lords – should all have the vote. This is for two reasons.

First, the principle that the only reason the state can claim any kind of jurisdiction over any individual is that they have a vote. It’s extraordinary that libertarian and liberal conservatives can miss that point.

Secondly, and more practically, we need constitutional structures for when things go wrong as much as when they go right. Totalitarian states around the world make a practice of imprisoning dissidents, or of declaring them to be mad. A universal franchise would be some small innocculation against the ability of the state to make the inconvenient invisible.

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This is an extraordinary piece of footage. Andrew Breibart confronting counter-demonstrators at a Tea Party event in Chicago. He asks protesters to substantiate the wording on their signs, things like “Beck Lied”. What did Beck lie about? Blank…

The anti-hate demonstrators back away and one woman shouts “I think he’s gay”, which is a bit off-script for a left wing demonstrator.

They’ve been bussed in. Watch, it’s fascinating:

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esr on carrying a gun:

“When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.” Intervention by armed civilians on the spot aborts hundreds of crimes a year in the United States, and thousands more could be prevented if there were more of us. Carrying is not just a survival tactic for me; it’s a service, a net benefit to my neighbors and my nation and my civilization, and I feel good about that.

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