Posts Tagged ‘Rothbard’

Vox Political on the Tories’ Proposed Privatisation of the Fire Service

September 15, 2018

Yesterday Mike put up a piece showing precisely what the fire service would like if Brandon Lewis gets his way and privatizes it. His piece follows an article in Mirror Online. The Mirror obtained a letter in which Lewis calls for new laws, which would allow fire and rescue organisations in England to contract these services out to other providers. This could result in all 46 fire and ambulance services being sold to private industry. Lewis says in his letter that he realizes this would be controversial, but defends it as it would give the fire and rescue authorities more choice over whom to contract their services.

As Mike shows, it’s a rubbish idea, and one that will ultimately cost lives. He gives a very short scenario portraying how the privatized service would operate. A householder would phone up their local fire brigade to ask for help. They’d then get a reply telling them who the current provider is, which firm is currently sponsoring them, before finally asking them how they’re going to pay for it. By this time, the fire’s out of control and their house is burning down. The private fire service then informs the customer that they’ll bill their descendants.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/09/14/want-to-know-what-brandon-lewiss-privatised-fire-service-will-look-like-itll-look-like-this/

This plan is, of course, pure idiocy, and Mike’s absolutely right about how it would operate. This is another idea the Tories have stolen from Rothbard’s wretched Libertarians. Rothbard was an anarcho-capitalist, who believed that all state functions should be taken over by private industry, including the courts. They were solidly behind Ronald Reagan, and it was the Libertarians in the Conservative party who formed the party’s base for Thatcher.

Obviously, while Thatcher wanted to privatise everything that wasn’t nailed down, as a believer in a ‘strong state’ she definitely wouldn’t want to do anything so radical as sell off the courts or the armed forces, although the Tories had a pretty good go at selling off the forces’ support infrastructure, like various barracks, as revealed at the time by Private Eye. And way back c. 1991/1992 Virginia Bottomley wrote a glowing piece the Depress or Heil looking forward to the privatization of the police and their replacement with private security forces.

And the privatized future Mike portrays in his article is all too plausible. It’s what happened in the past. Viewers of the antique shows on the Beeb, like Bargain Hunt, will recall that every so often the presenters came across a house plaque dating from the 18th century. These plaques were to show that the householder was registered with an insurance company against fire. If fire broke out, the local fire brigade would come round to put the fire out. But they did this only for those, who were insured with them. If you weren’t insured, then they let your house burn down.

The Tories have been trying to cut down on the fire service for a very long time as part of their general campaign of cuts, including to the firemen and women’s pay, conditions and pensions. And the fire brigade union has fought against them. This looks like another attempt to break the brigade’s resistance by selling it off to a private contractor, just like the Tories have done to the personnel and their unions in other sectors of the state.

I don’t doubt that they’ll present this as a new way the brigade can raise necessary funds outside of taxpayer’s money, just like the part-privatization of the NHS was intended to allow GPs and other service providers to raise money from private industry. It’ll also be presented as still giving the people of a particular area uniform coverage while in fact removing the state’s obligation to do so, just as Andrew lansley’s vile Health and Social Care Law of 2012 removes the state’s obligation to provide health care. And just as the Tories want to introduce and increase charging within the NHS, so they’ll introduce charges into the fire and rescue services.

The result will be tax cuts for the very rich, as usual, while the people in the fire services will be placed on drastically reduced pay and conditions, and those unable to afford private fire protection will be left to fend for themselves. Just the Tories have done right across the entire economy.

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Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Wants Poor and Disabled Euthanised

May 18, 2018

Here’s another report from the American left-wing news site, The Young Turks. And it tells you everything you’ve always suspected about right-wingers both in the USA and over here: they really do want to kill the poor.

The offensive posts turned up on the Facebook page of Chris Barnett, who is running to be governor of Oklahoma. After a poll on the requirements to get food stamps, Barnett then apparently stated that euthanasia would be a solution to the ‘issue’ of the poor and disabled. This really did not go down too well with large sections of the general public. One person posted that most people on food stamps were actually in work, and those that weren’t also included the elderly and disabled. This met with the reply asking why ‘we’ are required to keep them? He went on to say that ‘euthanasia is cheaper and doesn’t make you a slave to the government’.

Barnett then met with such a barrage of criticism, that he’s issued a statement blaming the posts on that old excuse: his Facebook page was hacked into. Ana Kasparian and Cenk Uygur, the two anchors reporting the story, make the point that this is unconvincing. A random member of the public wouldn’t know the codes to get into his account. He could have blamed one of his staff instead, but this would have meant throwing the staffer ‘under the bus’. Unless it was the staffer, who really did it. He then made a further statement that what he meant was the poor and disabled shouldn’t be killed, but should simply be left to starve.

They also find his excuse unconvincing, because if you look at Republican webs sites and pages, so many of them are saying exactly the same thing. It therefore looks very much like Barnett did post those comments, unbelievable as they are.

This will also corroborate what Mike, Geoffrey Davis, one of the commenters on my Blog, and so many other disabled people, carers, and disability rights activists, that the Tories over here are also engaged in a policy Mike has termed ‘chequebook euthanasia’. The Tories are throwing extremely vulnerable people with no other sources of income off benefit, through sanctions and the wretched work capability tests, in the hope that they will starve to death. A thousand or so have. Mike, Johnny Void, and Stilloaks, as well as the Angry One from Yorkshire, Another Angry Voice, have posted up the lives and biographies of those who have, or worse, committed suicide in despair. Stilloaks compiled a list of these victims, which was reblogged by the others. The last time I looked it was around the 750 mark. And that was some time ago. I expect it to be approaching a thousand now.

And Tweezer and the rest of her foul crew are still saying that these deaths have nothing to do with the benefits system, even though many of the suicides left notes declaring that it was precisely because of the benefits system that they were taking their lives.

No, no, move on, you ignorant proles! Nothing to see here. We’re totally blameless, and in the right, because we’re helping you find work with our return to the less eligibility policy of the workhouse.

The Tories and the Republicans have very strong contacts with each other, and the Tories have been taking over Republican and Libertarian policies. Like the privatised police force. That was one of Rothbard’s brilliant idea, the founder of the Libertarian party in the America. The same Libertarian party, whose members include one of the billionaire Koch brother, and which in the 1970s ran a special issue in its magazine denying the Holocaust. Ctesias, who is, like Geoffrey Davis, one of the great commenters on this blog, also pointed out that the Tories also seem to have taken over the ideas of one Canadian right-wing philosopher, Gauthier. This piece of work wrote that the poor woman starving at the gates of a rich man feasting, has no call on his wealth, especially as it would deprive him of the pleasure of feeding the crumbs to the birds. It’s a complete inversion of Our Lord’s parable of Dives and Lazarus, in which the rich man, who ignore the poor man at his gate, goes to hell after death while the poor man enters heavenly bliss with Abraham. So much for the Christian Right’s concern for true Christian values!

A little while ago Tweezer’s choice for a universities’ watchdog, to make sure democracy wasn’t being stifled by all those nasty left-wingers on campus, Toby Young, was revealed by Private Eye as having gone to a eugenics conference at University College London. Yup, Tobe’s big on eugenics. And some of the others were far more extreme than he was, connecting it to race and IQ.

I’ve commented before that the Republicans and Conservatives are Social Darwinists, just like the Nazis. They see poverty and wealthy purely in terms of biological and economic fitness. The rich are there because they’re biologically superior. And the poor should be prevented from breeding, because they’re biologically unfit and so will only spread poverty. It was one of the ideologies in the 19th and early 20th century that was used to oppose health and safety legislation for working people, and the establishment of any welfare benefits. It led to the sterilisation of the poor, disabled and mentally challenged. And these policies were taken over by the Nazis, who claimed that they had made absolutely no innovations when adopting them.

And the endpoint of that was the murder of the disabled by the SS and Nazi doctors under the infamous Aktion T4. This was abandoned after a massive public outcry, especially by Roman Catholics led by Count Galen. But the murders didn’t stop, and the programme led eventually to the wholesale gassing of the Jews in the extermination camps.

Barnett may not have posted those vile comments, but they do speak for the Republican and British Conservative mindset. A mindset that is killing the poor and disabled by starvation, all while claiming just to be reforming and making the welfare state more efficient.

They’re lying. The true attitude to the poor is shown by the number of deaths they’ve caused, and the quarter of a million more people, who’ve been thrown on to private charity in the food banks.

Get them out before more people die.

Tory Voter ID Scheme Is a Devise to Stop People Voting

May 9, 2018

The council elections last Thursday were also the occasion for the Tories to test their latest wheeze regarding people’s right to vote. This purports to stamp out electoral fraud by demanding that only people carrying proof of their ID should be allowed to cast a vote at the polling station. The scheme was trialled in Bromley, Woking, Gosport and Swindon. As a result, a total 3,981 people were prevented from voting in these constituencies. People were turned away from about one in five polling stations.

Mike reported this on his blog, making the point that their were only 28 cases of voter fraud amongst 45 million people in 2917. He commented that as a scheme to allow everyone to vote, who had a right to vote, it was a complete disaster. But he went to suggest that this wasn’t the real reason for the scheme. This was to cut down on the number of people able to vote for the competing parties.

He then quoted Labour’s Cat Smith, the Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, who stated that there was no point in introducing the scheme in the first place, and that the government had ignored the warning signs to set up a discriminatory scheme which denied people their right to vote.

She demanded that the government abandon the scheme, saying “We cannot allow the Conservative Party to undermine our democracy, which is why Labour is calling on the Government to scrap their voter ID plans as a matter of urgency.”

And Mike concluded his article with the comment

If the Conservatives go ahead with this, based on the evidence we’ve seen, we’ll know they are trying to nobble democracy.

Over to you, Tories.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/05/voter-id-pilot-turned-away-too-many-people-tories-are-bound-to-roll-it-out-across-the-uk/

Actually, there shouldn’t be any doubt about this. The Tories are trying to nobble democracy. A year or so ago I put up piece about a similar scheme introduced by the Republicans in America. This altered the rules for registering to vote, ostensibly with the same intention of preventing voter fraud. In fact, it was intended to deprive the Democrats of votes by making more difficult for students, the poor and Blacks, who form a large part of the Democrats’ electoral support, to vote. One Republican in one of the southern states actually admitted this. The issue was reported and heavily commented on by some of the American left-wing alternative news sites, like The Young Turks. I’d guess that there’s a similar situation in Britain, where support for the Labour party is strongest amongst the young, the poor and ethnic minorities. All of whom might find it more difficult to produce proof of their identities than older, richer Whites.

Not that the Democrats themselves haven’t been averse to using similar methods. Counterpunch in their book, End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate reported a similar scheme introduced by them in Florida, which resulted in thousands of Blacks and Latinos being turned away.

The Tories have taken very many of their ideas from the Republicans over the pond. These include the introduction of private police forces, which was dreamed up in the 1980s by Libertarians like Rothbard, E. Nozick and Gauthier in Canada, as part of their ideal ‘minarchist’ state. Rothbard wanted to privatise the courts, which is probably too loony even for the Tories and Republicans. But you never know. Fiddling the voting requirements to stop people voting for the opposing party, all under the pretense of fighting electoral fraud, seems to be another idea they’ve adopted from the Republicans.

Cat Smith and Mike are right. This is all about nobbling democracy and denying people their right to vote. And if the Tories think it has given them a better chance at the polls, they will introduce it nationally. It has to be stopped. Now.

Vox Political on the Private Police Force Now Being Unrolled by the Tories

May 8, 2018

Mike over on Vox Political has just put up a piece reporting and commenting on a private police force, My Local Bobby. This was first introduced in three of the wealthiest boroughs in London, and is now set to be unrolled nationally. He makes the point that we’ve known for a long time that the Tories have wanted a private police force. Now they look set to have one, while the real police are being run down and starved of funds and officers. He states that this looks like a protection racket to him, and asks what his readers think.

https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/08/private-police-or-protection-racket/

This another issue I really can’t let go. The Tories have been planning to set up a privatised police force since the late 1980s and early 1990s. I can remember Virginia Bottomley, one of Major’s cabinet, raving in the Mail on Sunday about how wonderful it would be.

It’s another idea that the Tories have taken straight from the Libertarians. It comes from the demented ideas of their leader, Rothbard, who would also like to privatise the courts. The Libertarians see themselves as Anarchists, though I think genuine Anarchists would vehemently dispute this. Especially as the Libertarians themselves have their own history of anti-Semitism. In the mid ’70s their journal in the states, run by one of the Koch brothers, ran an edition dedicated to denying the Holocaust. This included articles by some of the most notorious of the country’s real neo-Nazis. The purpose behind it was to attack Roosevelt. The Libertarians hate the minimum welfare state Roosevelt introduced with the New Deal. But Roosevelt is also popular for taking America into the War and helping to defeat the horrors of Nazi Germany. World War II is seen as a good war, because of the Shoah – the Holocaust. And so the Libertarians decided that to undermine the New Deal, they had to try and discredit Roosevelt generally. Thus the publication of the vile lies to try to convince people that the Holocaust never happened.

Then Ronald Reagan got into power, who supported the Libertarians. Finding themselves suddenly in the mainstream, they decided to bury their anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial to avoid this coming back to discredit them.

As for a private police force, there are several arguments against them. Firstly, justice must be the preserve of the state. Those who take the law into their own hands without the proper sanction of authority are vigilantes. And Fascist regimes have also incorporated right-wing paramilitary organisations as part of their police and military. The radical American journalist Chris Hedges, talked about how the Nazis did this with the SS. He predicted that Trump would do something similar with the paramilitary racist groups in the Alt Right, such as the violent, White supremacist ‘Proud Boys’. The private police here aren’t racist, but they are a private organisation carrying out police functions, and so somewhat like those predicted by Hedges. Which leads to the question: the Tories are deeply racist, as shown by Tweezer’s deportation of the Windrush migrants. How long will it be, if the Tories get away with this, before they start to give police powers to real, openly racist groups?

According to Mike’s article, these new private bobbies can use citizen’s arrests. Well, so can anybody. But the One Show a while tackled the issue, and it’s not as clear cut as it may appear. There are very strong legal restrictions on how they can be made. Put simply, you can only make a citizen’s arrest if there is a danger that the perp may escape before a real copper gets there. So these fake police are still dependent on the real thing.

Then there’s the argument from morality and efficiency. According to this scheme, you’re given the protection of this private police force, if you pay £200 a month. But what happens if not everyone in the area agrees to pay that, and some don’t sign up? Clearly, they don’t get police protection, which means they become at risk from crime. This is unjust. But it’s also a danger to the other residents. Say, for example, someone outside this scheme is murdered, and their home taken over by violent thugs. The private cops don’t move against them, because that person didn’t pay his £200 a month. But the occupation of his house by the gang also puts everyone else in the street or area in danger.

Private police are a rubbish idea. They don’t work and they’re immoral. Which is why this morally corrupt government backs them. This lot sound like a bunch of corporate vigilantes. And the fact that the scheme was tried out in three of London’s richest boroughs shows how classist this scheme is. The rich get policing, while the real police keeping the rest of us safe are deprived of staff and funding, making our streets much less safe.

Which is the Tories all round. It really is one law for the rich under them, and another for the poor.

Private Eye on the Failure of Private Law Enforcement Firms

March 3, 2016

One of the ideas floated by the Tories under John Major way back in about 1992-3 or so was that law enforcement should be privatised. Instead of the police patrolling our neighbourhoods to protect us from crime, citizens should be free to hire private security firms to do the same. It’s an idea they nicked from the American Libertarians, though unlike Rothbard, the author of the idea, they didn’t go as far as recommending the privatisation of the courts. The Mail on Sunday ran an article promoting this and other Neo-Lib Tory ideas in their issue that winter.

In their issue 9th – 22nd December 2005, Private Eye ran an article on how one Private Law enforcement firm, had not lived up to the hype, and had spectacularly failed to catch many criminals.

Private Equity
Drake’s Progress

The woeful performance of private law enforcement firms has been exposed once again in a Norwich courtroom.

The Eastern Daily Press recently reported how the firm paid to enforce arrest warrants on people failing to serve community punishment orders managed to catch on 31 out of 260 offenders over the summer, while its success rate before then wasn’t much better.

The company responsible, Drakes (“total civil enforcement and debt recovery solutions”), is one of a breed of companies operating in the criminal justice system that are part of the secretive and avaricious private equity industry. it is part of the Bridgman group that says that it is owned by funds managed by an outfit called Gresham, including the mysterious South Place Zurich Partnership 2002, none of which supply accounts.

Bridgman gets nearly all its funding in the form of loans totalling £10m from anonymous creditors at inflated interest rates, a standard feature of the private equity industry that allows financiers to strip out profits asap and often leads to the kind of cost-cutting that makes chasing offenders look distinctly uneconomical.

Gresham is unabashed about its approach, boasting of its “strategy for exit to deliver maximum value to all investors”. So the uncooperative small-time crooks of East Anglia might soon be somebody else’s problem, but not before the private equity funds have got away with a few quid.

Many of the care homes that collapsed a few years ago, or were so disastrously run that the inmates were abused and neglected, were also owned or managed by these private equity firms. It’s clear that these firms can’t manage services, as they’re simply not interested in them, except as a source of profit.

Vox Political: Police Considering Handing 999 Calls to G4S

November 12, 2015

Mike has posted a number of very important, ominous pieces about Tory reforms to the police force, reforms which will undermine the police as a public, state institution tackling crime, and deny those arrested of their fundamental right to legal representation and a fair hearing.

All this is being done in the name of private profit and cutting costs.

Last week Mike revealed the news that the government was considering putting 999 calls in the hands of G4S. Even without their record of incompetence, which has included letting prisoners escape while under their escort to the courts for trial, this would still be a matter for concern for corruption and conflict of interest. On of the company’s major shareholders is the husband of Theresa May, the current head of the Home Office.

See Mike’s story: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/08/police-forces-consider-company-part-owned-by-theresa-mays-husband-to-handle-999-calls/

The next day, Mike posted up this story, expanding on the news: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/10/more-cuts-mean-privatised-police-for-profit-theresa-may-call-it-what-it-is/

Not only are Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire and Northamptonshire police forces considering granting the operation of their 999 lines to the company, but Theresa May has announced that she intends to give G4S and other private security firms and government contractors like it police powers. This will be ‘when the time is right’, of course. Mike points out that this is truly policing for profit, whatever May says to the contrary.

The Tories have been floating the idea of privatising the police force for nearly a quarter of a century. In Christmas 1991 I recall the Mail on Sunday running a story about the wonderful, Minarchist Tory Britain that would be ushered in the majority of MPs were women. This included a privatised police force, hired by individual communities. It’s an idea ultimately lifted from Rothbard and the American Libertarians. It was put into a feature about a future parliament controlled by women, as the Daily Mail has always aimed at a female readership, despite having a highly reactionary attitude to feminism, and an attitude towards women that comes dangerously close, and at times has crossed over into misogyny. If you want an example, think about the various articles the Mail has run demanding that women return to their traditional roles in the home. Or the photographs of underage, teenage girls, accompanied by sexual captions commenting on their attractiveness.

The Mail was hoping with this story to capitalise on the support the party had received from women, partly due to the election of Margaret Thatcher. This was despite the fact that Maggie had no women in her cabinet, and most of her policies actually harmed them as women form the majority of workers in the low-paid sectors.

It was also about this time that they launched the old propaganda line about national economics being similar to budgeting for a household. The article claimed that women automatically knew to vote Tory, as they naturally have a better understanding of men through handling the household budgets. This is a bit of specious, condescending flattery, as running a household is not like running a national economy, even if the word ‘economics’ ultimately does come from the ancient Greek term for ‘household management’. And it doesn’t impugn anyone’s ability to run a home to point this out.

The story was run at the beginning of Major’s ministry, and much was made of his inclusion of women in his cabinet, like Virginia Bottomley and Edwina Currey. If I remember correctly, the article claimed that the privatisation of the police was a police particularly favoured by Bottomley. Now nearly a quarter of a century later, it’s being announced by another female politico, in this case Theresa May. I wonder if this is entirely coincidental, or if the Tories feel that this would look far better being announced by a woman. Perhaps they hope that by specifically appealing to women, they can make it look like some kind of neighbourhood policing, done by corporations that know the needs and requirements of their local communities, rather than what it is: the assumption of authoritarian powers of arrest and detention by a private corporation, acting only for the profit of its senior management and shareholders.

If they are trying to present it as such, which I recall the Daily Mail article attempting to do, then backing G4S and other government contractors seems to me to be a grave error of judgement. Apart from letting their prisoners escape, I also remember that one of them was involved in serious riots in a refugee detention centre, which employed them. The inmates had risen up in protest at a series of abuse committed by the centre’s wardens, who were not state screws, but security guards in one of these private firms.

I also wonder if the person, who dreamed up this idea, has also seen some of the same Science Fiction films I have. Like the Heavy Metal movie and Robocop. The Heavy Metal movie was an ’80s animated film, based on the adult comic of the same name, which was the Anglophone version of the French Metal Hurlant. It was an anthology based on the comic’s various strips, linked by a story in which a young girl is led to realise that she is a warrior woman with cosmic powers, dedicated to fight evil.

One of the stories is set in a decaying future, where the police act like a private detective agency. The victim comes in, reports the crime, and then is expected to pay for the costs and manpower of the investigation.

The other film is another flick from the ’80s, Robocop. This was set in a decay, near-future Detroit, where crime was rampant and the police force had been privatised and handed over to a private corporation, OCR, or Omni-Consumer Products. Beset by bad management and suffering from an appalling death rate at the hands of local criminal gangs, Detroit’s boys and girls in blue go on strike. Meanwhile, the company has been trying to crush crime by using robots. These are failures, the prototype malfunctioning lethal during a boardroom demonstration in which it fatally shoots one of the corporation’s executives pretending to be an armed villain.

So the company decides to try again, this time using a machine which will also be part human. They set a new, rookie policeman, Murphy, up to suffer a brutal shooting in order to supply a suitable subject for transformation.

Directed by Paul Verhoeven, it’s a fast-paced, ultra-violent action movie. One of my mother’s friends went to see it at the cinema when it came out, and left feeling physically ill because of the graphic violence. Despite this, it is a good movie, with a sympathetic treatment of the resentment and anger of the demoralised cops, and the central character’s own struggle to remember who he is and regain what little he can of his lost humanity. It also makes the point that what people need on the streets isn’t efficient machines, but real people with compassion and empathy towards the victims, as well as the aggression and determination needed to tackle offenders. In one scene, Murphy as Robocop saves a woman from rape by shooting her attacker in the crotch. The victim runs to him to offer her thanks. But the Robocop machine can only diagnose her as traumatise, and impersonally calls a rape crisis centre on her behalf before going on to his next assignment.

And just as Superman is powerless when his enemies wield Kryptonite, so Robocop also has a built-in weakness. His manufacturers have built into his programming a secret protocol that prevents him from apprehending or harming any of the corporation’s employees or management. It is only when the board chairman – the Old Man – sacks the villain that Robocop is finally able to get justice and avenge himself by shooting him.

Robocop is, of course, very definitely SF, though possibly not so far away from reality. I doubt that we will ever be able to create cyborg super-cops any time soon. Detroit was and is a declining city with a severe crime problem. Furthermore, the storyline’s partly based on the city’s privatisation of its services. It did not, mercifully, privatise the police.

Now a privatised police force in the system May and her bosses are advocating clearly wouldn’t charge individuals for investigating crimes. But they are going to charge the state for their services. And in order to make sure they remain profitable and give a dividend to their shareholders, they will have to economise and make cuts. Mike has already reported on the concerns by the police that Tory cuts to their budgets of up to 25 per cent will leave them unable to properly investigate and prevent crime, and arrest offenders. So it looks like handing over police powers to the likes of G4S will actually increase it, not cut down on crime.

And as with Robocop, there is the problem of corruption in the assumption of the state’s powers of arrest and punishment by a private corporation. There have been major scandals over corruption in normal police force, particularly the Met and the West Midlands forces. People have been wrongfully arrested and suspects beaten, as well as collusion between the police and criminal gangs. It has been hard enough bringing these cases to justice. I doubt very, very much that the task will be any easier if policing is handed over to private companies. How many private policemen or women would dare to risk arresting a manager or senior boardmember?

And finally, there is the matter of principle that justice should always be public, and only the state should have fundamental right and trust to arrest, detain and punish offenders. The Mail on Sunday’s Peter Hitchens, while in many respects a highly reactionary arch-Tory, has stated that he opposes private prisons on this exact point.

So just on considerations of efficiency, competence, and the philosophical foundation of the state as the public arbiter of justice, this is an appalling decision. But this all counts for nothing when the Conservatives see an opportunity to turn a quick buck from privatising a public utility.

I doubt very much, however, that they will go as far in their privatisation of the justice as Rothbard advocates. That would mean the privatisation of the courts themselves, so they could receive all the benefits of commercial competition in a free market economy. That’s anarchism, and whatever the Tories say they stand for in terms of personal freedom and free enterprise, they have always stood for a highly authoritarian society backed by the use of force against the lower orders. The very last thing they want to do is dismantle that. Rather, they are doing everything in their power to reinforce and strengthen it.

Vox Political: Tories Slash Police Funding until No Longer Able to Fight Crime

November 4, 2015

This is another story from Vox Political, based on a report from the Mirror. Six regional police and crime commissioners, for Devon and Cornwall, Thames Valley Forces, Merseyside, Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire, as well as Stephen Greenhalgh, London Deputy Mayor for policing, have written a letter to Tory policing minister, Mike Penning, complaining of cuts to their budget. They fear that the cuts will seriously prevent them from doing their job of solving and protecting the public from and crime. The group has stated that the cuts have meant that Lancashire will lose “almost all of its proactive crime fighting and crime prevention capacity by 2020.”

In response, Penning has come out with the usual Tory rubbish that their policies are working, and crime is falling. It’s what they always say. And I’m always sceptical, as the government is nearly always manipulating the figures when it says this. The Tories attacked New Labour when they were in power, for allegedly altering the statistics so that certain crimes weren’t counted or reported, and this practice has gone on since they got into power.

Mike also wonders if this is a ploy to cripple publicly funded policing and encourage the hiring of private security forces instead?

His article can be read at: http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/11/04/first-doctors-now-police-tories-seem-determined-to-halt-all-public-services-by-christmas/

This is a very good question. I can remember as far back as Maggie Thatcher and John Major, the Tories were looking forward to a Britain, where policing would be done by private security firms hired by individual neighbourhoods. There was an article back then in the Mail on Sunday going on about how wonderful this, and similar Tory ideas were, and how they would be put it into practice if women had the majority of seats in parliament. It’s a Libertarian/ Anarcho-Capitalist idea which ultimately goes back to Rothbard in America. Among his ideas was that justice could be improved if the courts were privatised. This would work, he believed, as even hardened criminals would accept the need for abiding by the decisions of a recognised fair and impartial court, and so the private-enterprise court with the best judge would establish itself as the most widely accepted source of justice.

It’s such a whacky idea that not even the Tories have taken it on board, despite having adopted so much else from the Libertarian New Right. But, it seems, they still support the idea of private police forces, as used in places like South Africa.

The Mail on Sunday’s article was a cynical attempt to drum up support for Tory ideology amongst women. The Daily Mail has always positioned itself as female-friendly paper, despite the fact that Conservative reforms, going back to Maggie Thatcher herself, have always hit women the hardest. Traditionally, women have always worked at the poorest paid and most insecure jobs, quite apart from the pressures of fulfilling their traditional roles as homemakers, looking after the house and bringing up children – state aid for which has persistently and continually been cut by the Tories, along with reforms and state institutions to give women a better chance at competing successfully with men in the workplace.

This is another ‘reform’ that could leave women feeling particularly vulnerable. I think if you look at the statistics, you find that men are most likely to be the victims of crime, or violent crime. However, women in particular feel especially worried about it. One explanation, I believe, for them not suffering as much as men is that they are more careful about their personal safety because of their greater concerns about attack and violence.

It wasn’t so long ago that the Tories posed as the party of law ‘n’ order, staunchly supporting the police against the forces of crime. Especially if it was left-wing crime, done by the unemployed, trade unions, Blacks, gay people and all the other groups they didn’t like, and who Maggie decided were ‘not one of us’. Like the miners. Indeed, one very senior policeman – it may even have been the Chief Constable – declared that Maggie used them as her private army during the Miners’ Strike.

Well, no more. The Tories have decided to cut the police force, just as they have forced through swingeing cuts to the armed forces and so much of the rest of the economy. All with a view to improving efficiency, which is the usual excuse.

And the dominant idea amongst the Tories is that private enterprise is always better, even when it is not. As the armed forces have been cut back, private armies have expanded, and are being used in Iraq. When I was at school we were taught that private armies had been made illegal since the victory of Henry VII at Bosforth Field back in 1485. It was Henry VII, who laid the foundations for the modern, centralised British state by outlawing the barons’ ability to form private armies composed of their personal retainers – their affinity, as their retinues were known at the time.

This unfortunately came back under Tony Bliar. And with that precedent in mind, unfortunately it does seem all too credible that the Tories do want to see the police reduced and partly replaced by private security firms.

In the meantime, despite the rubbish spouted by Penning, people will be left at greater risk of crime by these cuts. Except for the rich, who like their counterparts in South Africa, will have the money and influence to purchase protection with private security firms.

Desperate Tories: Grant Shapps Attacks Miliband for not being Businessman

February 16, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this story about the Tories getting testy over Ed Miliband’s plans to boost small and medium businesses, Perhaps the Tories have all caught ‘foot in mouth’ disease at http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/02/16/perhaps-the-tories-have-all-caught-foot-in-mouth-disease/. Grant Shapps, the Tories’ chairman, has poured scorn on Ed Miliband’s ability to run the economy, because he has never run a business.

As Mike and the commenters on the BBC’s website have pointed out, this is a bit rich coming from Shapps. Shapps has indeed run his own business, but not necessarily under his own name. His trading names have included ‘Mr Green’ and ‘Mr Shepard’. This is, of course, fraud.

As George Osborne, before he was made Chancellor of the Exchequer, the scion of the Baronet of Ballymoney had the exciting, dynamic post of folding towels in Harrods.

So these two senior Conservatives ain’t prime examples of successful, reputable business then.

Obama Also Not Fit for Leadership, ‘Cause Not Businessman

As for the jibe, this isn’t original either. It first emerged, like much of the Tories’ vile policies, amongst the Republicans in America. It was a sneer aimed at Obama, when he ran against Rand Paul. The Repugs despised the Senator from Chicago because he was a ‘community organiser’. Rand Paul, on the other hand, was a businessman, and therefore far superior.

Social Darwinism and Class Prejudice

This actually tells you much about the Social Darwinist assumptions of modern American – and British – politics. The Nazis also praised and supported the business elites, as they were obviously biologically superior to the rest of the German population. Far below them were the biologically inferior, who included not only those considered racially inferior like Jews, Gypsies, Blacks, Poles and Russians, but also the disabled and the unemployed.

Now the British and American Social Darwinism of the late 19th and early 20th centuries did not recommend their extermination. It did, however, argue for the sterilisation of the disabled and mentally handicapped, as well as, at one point, the unemployed if they sought poor relief. The attitude was also used to block welfare and health and safety legislation by big businessmen, on the grounds that if workers suffered from illness or work-related sicknesses, it was down to poor heredity rather than the constitution of society.

The same attitude is very much on display here. Obama didn’t run a business – he just looked after deadbeats. Miliband can’t run the economy! He’s not a genetically superior member of the business class.

This Social Darwinist attitude to the inequalities of the British class system is very much alive. One of the most viewed pieces on this blog is a post I wrote about the weird eugenicist views of Maggie’s mentor, Sir Keith Joseph. Joseph looked set to become leader of the Tories until he caused a massive storm with a Social Darwinist rant about how unmarried mothers, and other members of the underclass, were a threat to the British national stock.

It was an extraordinarily offensive rant, made all the more surprising coming Joseph, who as a Jew should have been very well aware of the dangers of this kind of reductionist, pseudo-scientific biology.

The Biological Superiority of the House of Lords

The same class prejudices re-emerged again back in the 1990s when Blair was reforming the House of Lords. One of the reforms was the proposed abolition, or reduction in the number of hereditary peers. This produced a storm of outrage from Conservatives, one of whom argued that the hereditary peers should be left alone. They were, he argued, biologically superior to the rest of us proles and tradesmen, because centuries of breeding had prepared them for position in government, to which they were also best fitted through their education.

Now clearly, the good Tory, who made that argument, probably hadn’t seen, and certainly wouldn’t have liked, the 1970s British film, The Ruling Class. This starred Peter O’Toole as a mad lord, who believes he is Jesus. Toole’s character then becomes villainous when he is cured. At one point the character has an hallucination about going into the House of Lords. The members of the august House are shown as cheering, cobwebbed corpses and skeletons. It was an image that I can remember from my childhood, when it shown on Nationwide all those decades ago, when they were similarly debating the issue of the House of Lords.

Economy and Society Has Sectors, That Cannot Be Run for Profit

In fact, the argument about business leadership providing the best people for the government of the country falls down on simple facts that Adam Smith, the founder of modern laissez-faire capitalism, himself recognised. States provide services that are absolutely necessary, but don’t in themselves generate a profit. Like the judicial system and the transport network. You can’t run the courts like a business, no matter what bonkers Anarcho-individualists like Rothbard and the Libertarians believe. Nevertheless, you need judges, lawyers and courts to provide the security of property that makes business, and indeed civil society, possible.

It’s the same with roads. Roads were run for a profit at the time Smith was writing through the turnpike system. Nevertheless, Smith argued that roads could be a problem to run as a business, and therefore could be best left to the central government as the organisation best suited to maintain them. While they would be a drain on the nation’s resources, good roads were absolutely vital, and so the economy, and therefore British society as a whole, benefited.

Welfare Spending and Unemployment Relief Stimulate the Economy

Similarly, Obama may not have been a businessman, but his work as a community organiser clearly benefited his constituents, who had not been as well served by private enterprise as they needed. And by improving their material conditions through political action, the economy also benefits. This was one of the reasons FDR in the 1930s adopted the minimal provision of unemployment relief in America. If workers actually have enough money to help through unemployment, the amount they spend stimulates the economy still further and actually helps beat the recession.

The Nation of Shopkeepers, sacrificed to Big Business

Finally, you could also argue that Ed’s background outside of business actually makes him more, not less suitable to run the economy. It was Napoleon, who sneered at Britain as ‘the nation of shopkeepers’, and the retail sector is still one of the largest areas of the British economy. Thousands, if not millions, of Brits would love to run their own business. Maggie’s whole image as somehow ‘working class’, spurious as it was, was based on her being the daughter of a shopkeeper.

In sharp contrast to this, Tory policy has consistently favoured big business over the small businessman, making the dreams of hundreds of thousands of people, who aspire to be the next Arkwrights and Granvilles unrealisable.

Modern Big Business Practices Destructive

And the models the Tories have also adopted for big business have resulted in the destruction of much of the economy. Way back in the 1980s and 1990s, Private Eye ran a series about the multi-millionaires brought with much pomp to manage successful, blue chip companies, who then failed spectacularly. These superstar managers ran their businesses into the ground. In some cases, almost literally. Yet after decimating the companies and their share price, the managers were then given a golden handshake and sent packing. Only to be given a similar directorship at another company, and begin the whole process all over again.

As for privatised companies like the railways, they are now in receipt of vastly more public subsidies than British rail, and provide a worse service. The amount of rolling stock has been reduced and ticket prices increased, all so that a set of super-managers can enjoy a life-style of luxury, all while providing a service that is barely acceptable.

The scandals of the privately run care homes, which have been found guilty of appalling low standards of care, and the neglect and abuse of their elderly or handicapped residents, are also partly a product of the same commercial culture. Many were acquired by hedge fund companies, who have deliberately run up millions of pounds worth of debts for them as part of a tax dodge. The result has been a very parlous financial situation for the homes, resulting in little investment and bankruptcy.

Compared to this business culture, it could be said that Ed Miliband’s background outside it is a positive advantage, and gives him excellent credentials to run the economy.

The Appropriation of Anarchist Doctrines in Fascist Italy and Cameron’s Conservatives: Philip Blonde, Kropotkin and ‘Red Toryism’

August 10, 2013

I’ve blogged previously about the way Cameron’s Conservatives have adopted Rothbard’s Anarcho-Capitalism but without its Libertarian basis as part of their campaign to create an extremely authoritarian, Neo-Liberal state. This parallels the way Mussolini also used the anarcho-syndicalist elements in the Fascist movement and party to create a totalitarian dictatorship, which actively oppressed the workers and violently attacked any kind of socialism. A further example of Cameron’s attempts to appropriate and utilise anarchist ideas is Philip Blonde’s ‘Red Tory’ ideology. Blonde is Cameron’s political mentor. In his book, Red Tory, Blonde is very positive towards the great 19th century Anarchist, Peter Kropotkin. Kropotkin was a Russian scientist, whose study of the flora and fauna in Siberia convinced him that Darwin’s idea of the ‘Survival of the Fittest’ (actually a term coined by Herbert Spencer), was wrong, and that co-operation between organisms was the driving factor in evolution. He was an Anarcho-Communist, who fundamentally believed in essential human goodness. One of the arguments directed against Kropotkin’s anarchism was that he was actually too optimistic about human nature. If humans really were as benign and co-operative as he believed, it was argued, then why would you need a revolution against the capitalist order. Blonde is similarly favourably inclined towards other, libertarian socialist movements in the 19th century. He also draws on the history of paternalistic Tory reformers, such as Lord Shaftesbury and the Factory Acts, to try to present a kind of left-wing Conservatism. This tries to show that the Tories can and will pass legislation that will benefit and protect the working class from exploitation.

This libertarian socialist strand of Conservatism was immediately contradicted by the coalitions own policies on taking power. Instead of showing themselves to have any real sympathy for the poor and working class, the Tories and Lib Dems immediately passed legislation curtailing welfare benefits, legal protection for employees, and the exploitation of the unemployed for the benefit of big business. The speed at which they put all this into practice suggests that for all the socialistic ideals presented in Red Tory, Cameron and Blonde were never serious about them. It was instead a propaganda move intended to win a section of the working class away from Tony Blair and New Labour.

Something of the kind still appears to be going on in parts of the Conservative party. Despite the Conservative’s attempts to limit and discourage union membership, one of the Conservatives, Carswell, appears to have embraced them as a potential force for Conservatism and possibly as the cornerstone of authentic working class culture. Less than half of trade unionists vote Labour, and Carswell has, apparently gone every year to various trade union events. At the same time, he is extremely hostile to state welfare provision. My guess is that he’s trying to co-opt the unions for the Tories in an attempt to further break the Labour party from divorcing them from their original base. Quite what he thinks the place of the trade unions are in a Conservative political system, I can only guess. In the early part of the last century the unions were hostile about the establishment of the welfare state because they handled part of the bureaucracy for the workers’ health insurance schemes. Carswell may well be thinking that he could sell Conservatism to the unions this way, by making them responsible for their members welfare, rather than the state. He may also wish to create a system of trade unions that were compliant with the orders of the factory masters, such as the ‘yellow’ trade unions in 19th century Germany and Austria, or the Conservative trade unions of the 1970s.

I think the unions would be extremely foolish, however, if they were taken in by his ideas. The Labour party was formed by the unions, in conjunction with the socialist societies, in order to promote legislation protecting the working class and the engagement with working class issues in parliament. The Conservatives have been consistently hostile to this with successive administrations from Edward Heath onwards passing legislation intended to break their membership and power. As regard the Conservative trade unions themselves, these were dissolved by Thatcher herself. Their leader was left embittered, and declared that the Tories were on the side of the industrial exploiters. Which is what his counterparts on the Left had been saying all that time.

Historical, Constitutional and Philosophical Observations on the Tories’ Plans to Privatise the Courts

July 28, 2013

I have to say that I’m still somewhat stunned by the Conservatives’ suggestion that the court service should be privatised. This seems to be absolutely barking mad, and attacking the most fundamental, basic duty of the state, at least as it has existed in the West since the ancient world. In the Middle Ages the basic function of the state was to provide military protection and promote justice. There were private courts on the manors of the feudal aristocracy, along with the system of royal courts that also dispensed justice at local and county levels. These were the hundred and shire courts of Anglo-Saxon England. After the Norman Conquest, Henry I introduced the ‘justices in eyre’, judges that went on regular set circuits around England hearing cases. I believe the assize system was introduced by that other ‘lion of justice’, Henry II. One of the reasons England never developed the more extreme versions of feudal serfdom that existed on the Continent was because Henry I insisted on his right as king to govern and enforce his laws over the peasantry through the royal courts, thus preventing the aristocracy having the absolute control over their tenants and villeins that their counterparts in the rest of Europe had.

It was during the Middle Ages that the system of royal courts, such as the Court of King’s Bench, developed. In the Middle Ages and 16th and 17th centuries, kings were expected to dispense justice as they were God’s anointed through the coronation ceremony. This did have a very authoritarian aspect to it, as in the views of some constitutional theorists in the Tory party, it meant that as the king was the fountainhead of justice, he was above the law. This view was gradually altered and finally rejected with the growth of constitutional checks on the crown and the Glorious Revolution. Social Contract theory also supplied a rationale for royal government: the king was the people’s representative. Kings had been chosen and set up by their subjects at the very beginning of human society, in order to protect them, their livelihoods and property. As their representative, he had the right to rule them, preserving their freedom and protecting them from injustice and attack. Finally, in an age when all government is personal government, kings had a right to rule because the countries they ruled were literally theirs. It was their property, in the same way landowners lower down the social scale owned their estates, and administer justice over the serfs there.

Clearly the decline of feudalism has removed these circumstances as the basis of royal government, just as centuries of secularisation means that extremely few people would argue for the return of an absolute monarchy on the grounds that they had a sacred right to govern through their coronation. They did, however, act as the core of the modern state through their establishment of the central institutions of justice. Since the time of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth, at least, the state has been recognised as a separate institution to the kings that governed it. Hence Charles I was executed for his crimes against England, an idea that was so radical that it was almost unthinkable then. Nevertheless, the execution established the fact that Crown and state were separate, and that the judicial system, as part of the state, had the power to judge the monarch. Justice and the courts thus became the core feature of the modern concept of the state.

This is threatened by the privatisation of the courts. The ancient conception of the state was t6hat it was something that belonged to the public. For the Romans it was the res publicum, the public thing. The term has survived in the modern English word ‘republic’ and similar terms in the other European languages, including the Russian respublik. 16th and 17th century political theorists, like Locke, used the term ‘commonwealth’, from the words ‘common weal’, the common benefit or wellbeing. The state is therefore something that belongs to and affects everyone, even if it is effectively governed by a very select view, as it was before the extension of the franchise in the 19th century. This is threatened by the privatisation of the courts, which places justice in the realm of the private, rather than the public.

There are important constitutional problems with this. Courts have had the right to impanel juries, and try and punish offenders because they received their legitimacy from the state, either through itself or as a crown institution. If privatised, the courts would not have this source of legitimacy. They would be a private company, acting in its own interest. They would have the administration of justice as their function, but like other companies their main role would be to provide profit to their shareholders. Essentially, the justice they dispensed would be private justice, albeit administered on behalf of the res publicum. Now I can imagine that some traditional Conservatives would object to this. Peter Hitchens on his blog for the Mail on Sunday has stated that he objects to private prisons on the grounds that only the state has the right to persecute and punish crime. This is a very good point. If the courts are privatised, it raises the question of the difference between them and, say, a protection racket run by a local gangster. Both can claim to be providing protection for the people under their rule, and both are equally acting in the interest of private individuals. A privatised judicial system might still have the claim to be providing public justice if it has a contractual relationship with the state, or some other constitutional tie that establishes it as the legitimate source of justice. Nevertheless, its constitutional legitimacy as a public institution would still be considerably weakened.

The idea that courts can be privatised is something that the Tories have taken over from American minarchism and Anarcho-Capitalism. One of the founders of modern Libertarianism, E. Nozick, believed that the functions of the state should be reduced to the barest minimum. This was to be enforcement of contracts. Rothbard, the head of the American Libertarian party, argued that the courts should be privatised and opened up for competition. They would have no power beyond the voluntary acquiescence of the parties in dispute in the courts’ decisions. It’s a small detail, but it also shows the difference between American Anarcho-Capitalism and the libertarianism now promoted by the Tories. Anarcho-Capitalism is peculiar, in that although it promotes capitalism to its fullest extent, it shares many of the same concerns and features as left-libertarianism, such as Anarcho-Communism. Both forms of Anarchism share a common belief in the absolute sovereignty of the individual. Both also view the state as inherently oppressive. The great Russian anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin, declared ‘He, who says ‘the state’, says oppression’. Both types of libertarianism also stress individual’s sexual freedom. They consider that people should be able to engage in whatever kind of sexual relationship they choose, provided that it is reciprocal and between consenting adults. Thus Right Libertarians tend to differ from other Conservatives in their acceptance of homosexuality and free love. There is also a tendency in Right Libertarianism to demand the legalisation of drugs, on the grounds that the individual should have the right to consume whatever recreational substance they choose. Again, this is in marked opposition to traditional forms of Conservatism, which tends to be far more puritanical.

Now it seems to me that the Tories here have lifted some of the ideas of Anarcho-Capitalism but have very definitely rejected the ethos behind them. Margaret Thatcher believed very strongly in ‘the strong state’, reinforcing the powers and providing more funding for the police force and the security services. In doing so, she alienated many Libertarians, who bitterly resented her authoritarianism. Robin Ramsay, the editor of the parapolitical magazine, Lobster, wrote a piece on the death of one of the founders of the Libertarian Freedom Association a little while ago. Ramsay is a member of the Labour Party, although very critical of New Labour and the influence of the transatlantic Right in the Party since the Second World War. He stated in this article, however, that he had been supported in publishing Lobster by the aforementioned Libertarian. This gentleman regarded him as another Libertarian, albeit socialist, rather than capitalist, but felt that he had a common cause with him against the growth of state power. And he bitterly resented Margaret Thatcher for what he saw as her betrayal of libertarian principles. It thus seems to me that if and when the Conservatives privatise the courts, they will nevertheless retain and possibly extend their powers as the agents of state control.

And this raises a further point on the legitimacy of these courts derived from Anarchist theory. 19th century Anarchism and its predecessors denounced the state and its system of justice, particularly because of its class basis. Europe was governed by the very rich – the aristocracy and the rising middle classes – and the laws they passed protected and enforced their power. During the early 19th century, for example, the British government passed a series of punitive legislation curtailing working class dissent and protest in order to prevent a popular uprising, similar to that which had occurred just across the Channel. The governing class was composed of rich landowners, who passed laws heavily penalising poaching. At the time poaching was regarded as a traditional right held by rural labourers. It allowed them to feed themselves during times of famine and economic depression. It did, however, represent a threat to landed property, who responded by passing laws prescribing long sentences and transportation for poachers. Most of the legislation passed in 18th century England was designed to protect property, not human life. Hence the enactment of the death penalty for crimes like sheep stealing. It was in this legal environment that the Anarchists attacked state justice as aristocratic, capitalist justice, and believed that only through the destruction of the state would a truly classless society emerge.

Since the extension of the franchise in the 19th century and the gradual ascension of the House of Commons over the House of Lords, the state and its institutions have had a greater claim to be genuinely impartial. This has been especially true since the rise of the classless society in the 1960s. This would, however, be undermined by a privately-run court system. The courts would be run by their shareholders and investors, who are by definition capitalists, for their own profit. Justice would mean private justice on behalf of the rich. And almost certainly it would lead to corruption and conflicts of interests. How would a system of private courts successfully prosecute a leading shareholder or the chairman of the company that runs them? Everyone is supposed to be equal before the law, but in those cases there would be great opportunity for the accused to interfere with the judicial process in his favour. In short, he could put pressure on the judge, as a friend or employee, and gain acquittal.

The Conservatives have claimed that they are rolling back the frontiers of the state. They aren’t. They are privatising its institutions, but these still have all the authority and coercive power of the state, but are far more likely to be partial in their decisions.

The privatisation of the courts is a profoundly immoral idea, that completely undermines the idea of the state as the dispenser of impartial justice regardless of social origin. It should be rejected without hesitation.