Just a quick note to remind everyone that the Olympic-proof Southwark drinks are going ahead as usual tomorrow. Jan C Lester will be giving a talk on the uneccessary evil of democracies and republics.
Jan’s books on libertarianism are to be found in the reading list.
There just isn’t anything on the telly! Of course, there is something on the telly, there has been no major disaster of the kind that would stop broadcasters filling the airwaves with something. What I really mean, is that there is nothing of interest to me, and less of it than usual. Everything on TV this weekend, with the possible exception of Maria Sharapova, seems to be there for other people with interests wholly unlike my own – royalists, republicans and people that like horses, boats and that kind of thing. Royalism, repubicanism, horses and boats have never held too much of my interest.
To start with horses, they are on the TV becuase the Queen attended a derby but I just don’t like them. Let me be clear, it’s not that actively dislike horses, I have nothing against horses, it’s just that I don’t get very excited by watching horse racing or horses jumping over fences or whatever. I have ridden a horse, a couple of times, and didn’t particularly enjoy it. The first ocasion I don’t really remember as I was very young. The last horse, described as a compliant old nag by it’s owner, didn’t exactly pay attention to what I wanted it to do. I also worked on a website for a racing TV channel, on behalf of Perform Group in whom I later traded shares. I made a bit of pocket money, which is exactly as interesting as pocket money is always. I also built a database for a show ground in Wales using trusty (I’m being sarcastic) Microsoft Access. That project went rather badly, it was too much to take on at 20 and friends were lost over it, but the technology ultimately did the job. I remember a drama when for some reason the database ate itself and I needed to fish around in backups and reassemble the thing bit by bit. SVN hadn’t been invented yet, and wouldn’t have helped with the kind of monolithic file Access relied on. The problem is that MS Access wasn’t a proper client server application…. but I digress. Horses are just not that interesting, I’d rather be programming.
Boats are a bit more fun. I recall summer days on Milford Haven learning the ropes from my father, and pulling on sheets. I learned about tacking, jibing and goose winging, which I recall being a rather pleasant way to travel, and I learned how to coil a rope neatly. I most enjoyed heading out to the mouth of the Haven which was much more exposed. A longer fetch meant bigger waves and a bit of excitement as the bow crashed into and over waves, then down onto the next wave. Fiddling with the hardware under the jib on that kind of water is precisely what I call exciting. The Queen (she’s comming on TV a lot this weekend) is out on the water today and the news channels are full of people getting excited about being near her on the water a round number of years after she became queen (60), but its the calm waters of the Thames with no big waves expected. Frankly I just don’t get why someone would get excited about that. It seems a little wierd to be honest, and the psychology of it is more than a little curious. I certainly don’t think that looking at boats is much fun and thanks to my father I’ve spent long enough looking at boats to know exactly how much fun it isn’t, yet a lot of people are going to go and watch the boats go by. That includes my neighbour who is doing a good job of pressurising me to go along, and I might for social reasons, but I’d rather be sailing, or programming, than just looking at boats though. I don’t get anything out of just looking at boats.
Royalists are of course out in force. For people interested in monarchy, it’s history etc a round number years elapsing during the reign of a particular monarch is understandably a milestone, like turning 30, but it just seems frankly nerdy to be getting excited about the statistic that only one (or is it two?) other monarchs have been a monarch of England (etc) for the same number of years. Statistics like this don’t have any use to me, you might as well talk to me about the relative luminosity of lighbulbs. Again, I really don’t want to come accross as having a moan, I dont have anything against the Jubilee I’m just not excited in the way a lot of other people are and I find that a bit odd, on their part. One occasionally sees Royal celebratons just as one occasionally encounters horses in central London, but I’m as indifferent to this celebration as I would be about someone taking a ride around Hyde Park. Both events have little effect on my life, and yes that is my criteria for taking an interest. Horses have had a little effect on my life, boats a little more so, royalty has had, if anything less effect on my life than it properly should have done. The Queen is able to veto legislation and there is plenty of it that she should have vetoed.
Sean Gabb writes:
Once the politicians make themselves, as a class, irremovable, and once they begin to abolish the rights of the people, it is the duty of the Monarch to step in and rebalance the Constitution. It is then that she must resume her legal powers and exercise them of her own motion.
The need for this duty to be performed has been apparent since at least 1972, when we were lied into the European Union. The Conservatives did not fight the 1970 general election on any promise that they would take us in. When they did take us in, and when Labour kept us in, we were told that it was nothing more than a trade agreement. It turned out very soon to be a device for the politicians to exercise unaccountable power. The Queen should have acted then. Indeed, she should have acted – if not in the extreme sense, of standing forth as a royal dictator – before 1972. She should have resisted the Offensive Weapons Bill and the Firearms Bill, that effectively abolished our right to keep and bear arms for defence. She should have resisted the Bills that abolished most civil juries and that allowed majority verdicts in criminal trials. She should have resisted the numerous private agreements that made our country into an American satrapy. She should have insisted, every time she met her Prime Minister, on keeping the spirit of our old Constitution. There have been many times since 1972 when she should have acted.
Instead of acting, Sean regrets that:
In 1979, [The Queen] bullied Margaret Thatcher to go back on her election promise not to hand Rhodesia over to a bunch of black Marxists. In 1987, she bullied Margaret Thatcher again to give in to calls for sanctions against South Africa.
And that was it
And it is rather galling to consider that some of these Bills have had profound consequences and really ought to have been opposed by the Queen. I did believe that it’s equally as likely that the Queen has never really thought properly about the Bills she signed as she is to have thought about them and considered that she should support them. I was prepared to give her the benefit of the doubt but I’m reminded that she has been around for 60 years and that is plenty of time for nagging doubts to grow into conscious reflection on the political direction. I respect that she may have acted out of a kind of anti-racist over-reaction, understandably, but poverty and destruction in Zimbabwe should have been a trigger for a complete and rational reevaluation. Yet, at the time same time, it is not the Queen that initiated any of the Bills, nor is it probably any one person in Government, but rather a coming together of malign incentives within Parliament. I have no doubt that Royal Assent is the default setting for a Queen when deciding to act upon a Bill and she would have been persuaded of the correctness of that position since childhood. The blame then is distributed around a system made up of individuals who beleive in one approximate direction of travel and who end up going there, probably unconsciously in a great many cases. The real problem is to challenge and change the underlying ideas of the people who populate the system.
Republicans seem to be mostly keeping their heads down. I haven’t see a single one on TV to be honest, but the endless repetition of pro-monarchy arguments is directed at them, but again are of less interest to me. Oddly, I would have to label myself republican but still maintain an indifferent attitude.
A monarchy is probably not the correct way to run a country. My preference would be to elect Sir Tim Berners-Lee President of the United Kingdom and make him a figure-head with approximately the same powers as the Queen and set up an election process and term of office that ensured he would be able to take a long-view of things while remaining minimally accountable. The idea of electing TBL is not mine, Peter Tatchell suggested it, but Sir Tim has a proven track record in looking at things at a truly large scale and identifying the key technical things that are needed to make an economy and a culture flourish. That is the basic nature of what he did for the internet when he invented the World Wide Web, and he continues to do it. Keeping an eye on the UK and ensuring the wrong things aren’t done would be small beans after fathering the Web. I would love it if he retired from technology into politics proper. My only fear is he would not live long enough to get elected or might die shortly after taking up office, and then there would be a movement to elect someone from an establishment religion to replace him (though TBL is religious).
However, while I must label myself rebublican (because I have an opinion about who should be president, I basically am repubican) I can’t get particularly passionate about it either. With America in mind, I agree with what Tom Borroughes writes on Facebook, that:
there is not much evidence that republics are more free in terms of state infringements of liberty than constitutional monarchies. Libertarians should focus on cutting the size of government. Monarchy is a side issue.