Tag Archives: politics.

Brexit: A revolt against the feudalization of Britain

There has been a great deal of speculation about the reasons for the British people voting to leave the European Union, mostly slanted to imply that those voting to leave didn’t really want to leave. But for anyone with even the remotest insight into the lives of ordinary people, not just in Britain, but across the Western world, the reason would be obvious. It is the start of a new political disposition in revolt against the feudalization of Britain.

Although this article addresses the feudalization of Britain, it is a plague that infects the West as a whole.

The economic cause of this new feudalization is that giant global corporations are running out of cheap labor in the Third World to sustain their profitability and the disproportionate remuneration packages for their executives.

At the same time, the dishonesty and incompetence of the Western financial industry plunged Western economies into the worst recession in a century, which left millions of unemployed and low-paid workers requiring government assistance in order to meet the basic necessities of life.

The West’s financial and corporate elite thus saw an opportunity. The unemployed in the West could be compelled to replace the loss of cheap Third World labor under threat of losing their government assistance. Governments called this scheme ‘austerity’.

A stark admission of this policy came from Britain’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, in an interview on Britain’s Channel 4 Dispatches program, ‘How the Rich get Richer’, presented by Fraser Nelson of the Spectator magazine (17 November, 2014).

When it was explained to Iain Duncan Smith that people working even 10 hours a day were unable to support themselves and their families, and were less well-off than they would be on welfare, Duncan Smith’s answer was that the Government’s welfare reforms would ensure that people would always be better off working than claiming benefits.

But since the Government does not propose to ensure that global corporations and financial institutions be compelled to pay a living wage, Duncan Smith clearly meant that the already inadequate welfare support will be cut to such a level that people will be forced to work under any conditions and for any wage under threat of sanction.

The unemployed are thus harvested as a cash crop under threat of starvation and homelessness.

And while the Government relentlessly presses ahead with its feudalization reforms, forcing many British people, the unemployed and workers alike, to resort to food banks to feed their children, and charity shops to clothe them, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer was pre-occupied with challenging an EU directive from Brussels to cap bankers’ bonuses.

Yet, bankers’ bonuses are only possible because the Government has pumped billions of pounds into the hands of the incompetent and corrupt financial institutions that brought about this economic catastrophe in the first place. Across the Western world the greatest welfare checks in history were written out to the greatest economic villains in history.

But to deflect criticism from the villains in the story, the Government, supported by a compliant media itself in the power of the new ‘economic royalists’, or beholden to the Government for its funds, set about demonizing the victims by portraying them as welfare ‘scroungers’ crippling the economy, and living off ‘hard-working’ taxpayers.

This demonization of the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed, has instilled in even otherwise decent people a sense of contempt which has conditioned them to accept that their fellow human beings ‘deserve’ to suffer indignity, abuse, and hardship at the hands of a morally ambiguous Government, and morally vacuous global corporations.

But this is not the first time in recent history that free people have faced the threat of the malevolent aspirations of economic tyrants. It is, however, the first time that they have faced them without a leader of vision up to the challenge.

The last time free people faced such a challenge, the American people at least had a leader ready and willing to confront the menace. He was Franklin D Roosevelt.

He faced down ‘the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power.’

He condemned the ‘small group [that] had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor — other people’s lives.’

And he recognized that ‘against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government.’

But today, the organized power of government is itself in the service of the ‘economic dynasties’. It is imposing on its own people an economic tyranny for the benefit of ‘the privileged princes’.

Government is rendering itself the enemy of the people. And when people are forced into serfdom, then they become free to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure their own survival, and regain their dignity and freedom.

Freedom is that one thing that ‘no man gives up but with life itself.’

So it is not surprising that when Duncan Smith was asked whether the government’s policies towards the poor and oppressed might lead to revolution, he was silent.

However, the fear of revolution may just explain the extensive and intrusive surveillance programs of Western governments. And it may also explain the multitude of ‘threats’ we are told we need to fear; some real, like Islamic terror, for which our own governments are largely responsible; others contrived, like the idea of an expansionist Russia intent on invading Europe.

As long as the people have enough to fear, then Government and the new economic royalty have less to fear – or so they had hoped.

Perhaps Brexit will give them pause for thought. And they would be well advised to use it, before it’s too late.

Joseph BH McMillan

This article is adapted from an article first published in 2014.

Copyright © Joseph B.H. McMillan 2016 All Rights Reserved

 

The Reason Delusion: The Dark Side of the Enlightenment

Invoking reason in support of an argument is like banging on the table.[i]

Those who invoke ‘reason’ are essentially asserting that ‘if you ‘reason’ in the right way, then you’ll agree with them; if you don’t agree with them, that ‘proves’ that you haven’t ‘reasoned’ in the right way.’

The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment is claimed to have ushered in the ‘age of reason’. And to give credit where it’s due, it did bring some relief to the plight of many people. It also fed the appetite for revolution against the authority of self-appointed political and religious rulers. But there was a dark side of the Enlightenment which remains to this day.

There were essentially two broad philosophical camps in this ‘new’ way of ‘thinking’. The first claimed that knowledge could be attained when reason is applied to our experiences in life as they are processed through our physical senses. In philosophical-speak, this was called ‘empiricism’. Basically it means that we make it up as we go along.

The other camp claimed that the application of ‘reason’ alone was sufficient to acquire knowledge, because knowledge was an innate attribute of human beings. But unlike Buddhism, for example, they could not explain the precise mental technique to be applied in order to access this knowledge, other than the application of ‘reason,’ of course. These were called the ‘rationalists’.

Utilitarianism

Along with the Enlightenment there was a parallel ‘philosophy’ developing across the sea in England, also claimed to be rooted in the application of reason. It was championed by that most pernicious of philosophers, a certain Jeremy Bentham. Bentham claimed to have made the revolutionary ‘discovery’ that human beings prefer pleasure to pain. So he devised a ‘philosophy’ centered on maximizing pleasure and avoiding pain. This became known as Utilitarianism.

Immanuel Kant – the Hybrid Philosophy

Immanuel Kant, probably one of the few philosophers the average person could identify if asked to name a philosopher, blended these various camps to create a hybrid philosophy. Essentially he claimed that ‘practical reason’ makes known to human beings a ‘moral law’ which, when violated, ‘makes even the boldest sinner tremble.’ But he couldn’t identify what this ‘moral law’ was. So he simply asserted that it was ‘presented to us for our obedience.’ But that did not mean that we shouldn’t also seek pleasure and avoid pain. We only need to curtail our appetite for pleasure when it offends the ‘moral law’. That’s what ‘practical reason’ tells us.

The Reason Delusion

Now all these philosophers got so ‘puffed up with vanity’[ii] at their new discoveries that we could be forgiven for wondering whether they had invented some brand new way of thinking – by applying ‘reason’. Kant even discovered two distinct kinds of ‘reason’ – ‘pure reason’ and ‘practical reason’.

‘Reason’ thus became the new religion. Instead of invoking the authority of the divine or royal blood to impose their will and beliefs on others, the new ‘rationalists’ invoke their superior ability to ‘reason’. ‘Reason’ is the rhetorical weapon wielded to belittle those who disagree with them.

But the fact is, ‘reason’ on its own account tells us nothing.

The Human Brain

The human brain comprises three broad faculties, each made up of neurological networks – instinct, morality and reason.

Humans share most of the primitive instincts possessed by animals, such as the instincts for reproduction, survival and security. But they also have a number of peculiarly human instincts, such as the instinct to understand how the world works. This latter instinct improves the human ability to service the more primitive carnal instincts. For example, knowing how to cast iron helped humans to hunt better, and to better dispose of perceived threats.

Pleasure and Pain

All these human instincts are activated by the prospect of pleasure, or the fear of pain. And that’s where ‘reason’ comes in. When some or other instinct dangles before ‘reason’ the promise of pleasure, or the risk of pain, ‘reason’ springs into action. It devises ways to maximize pleasure, and eliminate, so far as possible, the risk of suffering pain.

Animals do the same, of course. But here is the difference. Once animals have satisfied the urge for pleasure or eliminated a perceived threat, they move on. Not humans. With their enhanced capacity to ‘reason’, they devise all manner of mischief to service their insatiable appetite for pleasure, and to eliminate even the remotest threat to their survival, security, or indulgence in pleasure.

‘Reason’ in the service of primitive human instinct has caused human beings to inflict the most unspeakable atrocities, degradations and humiliations upon their fellow human beings, mostly without a hint of remorse. It accounts for war, betrayal, slavery, poverty, starvation, genocide, child abuse, greed, deceit, murder. In short, it accounts for everything we call evil. And we find it everywhere, from the playground to the corridors of power; and especially in the corridors of power.

The Moral Network

But there is hope. And that hope comes in the form of a moral network within the human brain. The moral network acts as a restraint on instinct by appealing for an audience with ‘reason’. If granted a hearing, the moral network counsels ‘reason’ to resist over-indulging the demands of our primitive instincts. It can even counsel suppressing primitive instinct entirely by renouncing pleasure and courting pain. But that’s for the saints.

For the rest of us, activating the neurological moral network on a sufficiently wide scale is the only real hope for the future. But it will require a supreme effort, because catering to the demands of our primitive instincts has become a twisted kind of ‘virtue’.

Modern Context

There are encouraging signs, however. There are signs that people are beginning to see through the fog of deception. They are beginning to recognize that ‘reason’ is not the preserve of a select few. And they are beginning to realize that ‘reason’ is not some ‘supernatural’ force that can elevate human beings to new heights of ‘enlightenment’ and ‘civilization’. They are becoming wise to the ‘reason delusion’.

What is really happening is that the neurological moral network is awakening in many people. And that awakening directly challenges the cozy alliance between ‘reason’ and instinct. The internal struggle within each of us to escape from bondage to our primitive instincts is also playing out in the political and economic arena as a struggle by the people to escape from bondage to political and corporate servitude.

In every sense, it is becoming a battle between good and evil. Perhaps it is even nearing the final battle. The outcome will determine the future of humanity. But we should be in no doubt that the forces of ‘reason’ in service to primitive instinct will stop at nothing to get their way. The dark side of the Enlightenment has served them well, and they intend to hang on to it at any cost.

Now this may all sound very apocalyptic. But we should not underestimate the ‘irrationality’ of ‘reason’ in the service of primitive instinct. Neither should we underestimate the rage of a neurological moral network that has been deceived, abused and violated for too long.

The battle lines have been drawn. The first skirmishes are under way. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

Either way, it’s going to get very ugly.

******

Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2016 All Rights Reserved.

Notes

[i] Adapted from the jurist Alf Ross on ‘justice’.

[ii] A description of scientists by Albert Schweitzer.

Philosophical Origins of the Modern Liberal Fundamentalist State – Part II

“Hereby it is manifest that during time when men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man.”
And then there is this: “The desires, and other passions of man, are in themselves no sin. No more are the actions that proceed from those passions till they know a law that forbids them; which till laws be made they cannot know, nor can any law be made till they have agreed upon the person that shall make it.”
That is Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679) in Leviathan, also known as the Matter, Form, and Authority of Government – which really says it all.
This is quite frightening stuff, but remarkably, such sentiments still represent exactly the modern Liberal Fundamentalist state.
What Hobbes is saying is that human beings are too stupid and selfish to act in their own long term interests, or to ‘know’ what is right and wrong. So, he says, we need to elect one or more of our number to tell us how to act in our own best interests, and to tell us what is right and wrong.
He doesn’t explain how a group of stupid, selfish people, electing a stupid, selfish person from their midst, suddenly endows that person with the ‘wisdom’ to know what is right and wrong, and to act in a way that does not reflect his own stupid and selfish character.
Yet that is precisely what modern day politicians claim is the effect of their ascendance to power – that somehow they gain some superior ´wisdom´, ´conscience´, and sense of ´justice´, to the rest of us.

John Locke (1632 – 1704)

So although modern day ´philosophers´ will claim that Hobbes´ was too crude, the fact remains that his formula is precisely the model of modern day Western democratic government.
John Locke ‘refined’ Hobbes’ model. He started his ´philosophy´ of government with what is my Principle 1 – that no person has any natural authority to tell another person what to do.
He agrees that the natural state of man is “a state of perfect freedom to order their actions and dispose of their possessions and persons, as they think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature; without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man.”
He also said that men are in “a state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another.”
So, at first sight, it seems as though Locke is heading in the right direction.
But Locke carried with him plenty of baggage. He was an academic at Oxford University, then later the personal physician and companion of a certain English nobleman called the Earl of Shaftesbury. Locke was also teacher to Shaftesbury’s children.
I always find it ironic that someone so absolutely beholden for his living to another, especially an English nobleman, should be preaching about freedom.
And this quickly comes out in his writing.
Unlike Hobbes, Locke looks to the law of nature; “for the law of nature would, as all other laws that concern men in this world, be in vain, if there were nobody that in the state of nature had a power to execute that law, and thereby preserve the innocent, and restrain offenders.”
So, within 3 numbered paragraphs of his Second Treatise, Locke is already looking for someone to govern; to enforce the “law of nature.”
Accordingly, after justifying, in his chapter “Of Property”, why the likes of Shaftesbury can legitimately ‘own’ enormous amounts of property, to the exclusion of “common possession,” Locke latches onto the concept of “the majority”, and the “perfect democracy.”
Locke claims that “no one can be put out of [his freedom, equality, and independence], and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent.”
Phew, so far so good!
And “consent” is exactly what Locke claims men do, “for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another.”
But here is where Locke becomes bankrupt in his ´thinking´. He is unable to identify any principles to which all people would consent in order to conduct relations within their new community, so he simply claims that man “divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, … by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community, for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and a greater security against any that are not of it.”
And where do the ´rules´ to govern come from? Alarmingly, Locke says this: “ … the majority have a right to act and conclude the rest.”
So there it is – a “right” of the “majority” to dictate to the rest of us.
And done, says Locke, because “when any number of men have, by the consent of every individual, made a community, they have thereby made that community one body, with a power to act as one body, which is only the will and determination of the majority; … it is necessary the body should move that way whither the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority: … and so every one is bound by that consent to be concluded by the majority.”
What a devious little man! But I’m sure his noble Earl was pleased.
Locke’s ´thinking´ is a perfect example of turning logic on its head. We consent to relinquish our freedom to the majority, so that I have unwittingly ‘consented’ to be ruled by “that way whither the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority.”??
How can I consent to relinquish my consent to the consent of the majority, but still retain my freedom?
But this inverted logic is only the start of Locke’s ‘treatise’.
He goes on to claim that men give up their freedom “to be regulated by laws made by society.”
Locke argues that man consents to “give up the equality, liberty, and executive power [he] had in the state of nature, into the hands of the society,” because of “three defects” which make “the state of nature so unsafe and uneasy.”
Those “three defects”, he claims, are: no “established, settled, known” laws of right and wrong to settle controversies; no “known and indifferent” judges, with authority to determine disputes by reference to laws; and lastly, no “power” to execute punishment.
So, Locke argues, man consents to give up his condition of freedom (or as Locke describes it, “the equality, liberty, and executive power [he] had in the state of nature”), only “with an intention [to] better preserve himself, his liberty and property.”
Thus, says Locke, “the power of the society, or legislative constituted by them, can never be supposed to extend farther than the common good; but is obliged to secure every one’s property, by providing against those three defects above-mentioned, that made the state of nature so unsafe and uneasy.”
After briefly outlining the bounds of government, Locke sets out his idea of the “perfect democracy.”
“The majority having, as has been showed, upon men’s first uniting into society, the whole power of the community naturally in them, may employ all that power in making laws for the community from time to time, and executing those laws by officers of their own appointing; and then the form of the government is a perfect democracy.”
Locke then delineates the “bounds” of government: to govern by promulgated established laws; the laws must be “designed for no other end ultimately, but the good of the people;” government “must not raise taxes on the property of people, without the consent of the people;” and the legislator must not “transfer the power of making laws to anybody else.”
The “good of the people”? Tax, by consent of the majority? The “common good”? The majority ‘consenting’ on my behalf? “the greater force carries it, which is the consent of the majority”?
What on earth is left of my freedom?
I have sacrificed freedom to the common good, to the majority, to the “greater force” of the “consent of the majority”? I have agreed that the majority can consent to government appropriating my property under the guise of tax?
Oh Yes, I nearly forgot! If government is naughty and ventures beyond its mandate, say by imposing additional taxes, we can – wait for it – we can be “aggrieved.” And we can take our grievance to ….? Well – to the government. And if government laughs at us, what then? “The appeal lies nowhere but to Heaven.”
I’m not kidding, that’s what Locke says. The nobleman, the Earl of Shaftsbury, must have been pleased with his child-minder!
But it gets worse. “The legislative can never revert to the people whilst the government lasts; because having provided a legislative with power to continue for ever, they have given up their political power to the legislative, and cannot resume it.”
Really? Where, and when, exactly did man consent to get ‘Shafted’ by government.
But can we please perhaps vote a government out which has abused and exceeded its mandate?
Well, “if [the people] have set limits to the duration of their legislative, and made this supreme power in any person, or assembly, only temporary; or, else, when by the miscarriages of those in authority it is forfeited; upon the forfeiture, or at the determination of the time set, it reverts to the society, and the people have a right to act as supreme, and continue the legislative in themselves; or to erect a new form, or under the old form place it in new hands, as they think good.”
So here is the first big problem. If the government has abused its mandate to please the majority who, for example, want the minority to be compelled to hand over large amounts of property to the majority, how do you get rid of the government?
You can only do so if you can get the majority to relinquish its iron grip on your possessions! Remember, it’s all about the “greater force” of the “consent of the majority.” How likely is that?
The other possibility Locke envisages is the people expelling the government. But this he reserves only to the case where government uses force upon the people without authority and in breach of its mandate. Then, says Locke, “the people have the right to remove it by force.”
Fat chance!!
By this time, government has, by majority consent, usually reserved most or all force to itself. So the aggrieved have to overcome two obstacles: the majority; and if they can achieve that, the power the people have vested in government. And, of course, all governments make insurrection a criminal offence, even a treasonable offence, entitling government to suspend all ‘rights’; in the common good, and for the preservation of law and order, of course.
Locke himself describes this state as “a state of war with the people.”
Now, anyone thinking this through should quickly see that placing government in the hands of a majority, and endowing it with absolute authority to use force, makes it impossible to remove government so long as it attracts majority support, no matter how much it tramples over its original mandate. And the easiest way to maintain majority support is to take from the minority and give to the majority. But we are not talking here about some tiny proportion of the people having their freedoms trampled on. Usually it means 50% or more of the people, as any Western democratic election shows.
Even providing that “a well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed,” as in Amendment II of the United States Constitution, does not come close to curing this mechanism of oppression.
The well regulated Militia would have to be a rival army equal to, or more powerful than, the government forces, to be effective in such a circumstance. Government can also simply define what this Militia may comprise, as it does, or simply maintain that the military forces of the state are that Militia.
Most governments also simply restrict the “right of the people to keep and bear arms.”
Any half-wit should know that no government is going to allow an effective rival army to exist to act as a regulator of its affairs and power.
If we follow Locke’s ‘reasoning’ through therefore, we discover that man has consented to surrender his freedom in order to attain those basic securities necessary to remedy the defects of man’s state of nature, what I call his condition of freedom, the three rather insignificant “defects” of his freedom, only to find he will be subject to the whim of the majority, backed up by a force that he has no hope of challenging. In man’s condition of freedom, the principal threat came from those of relatively equal strength to himself; under Locke’s formula, the threat is from an immensely more powerful entity, supported by an easily manipulated majority.
Who in their right mind would consent to such an inversion of threat?
‘Nanny Boy’, Shafter’s child-minder and ‘companion’ – companion? Hmm? – reinforced his vision of tyranny in a piece of drivel called A Letter Concerning Toleration.
Nanny Boy poses himself a hypothetical question: “What if the [government] should enjoin any thing by his authority, that appears unlawful to the conscience of a private person?”
Well, Nanny Boy says this is unlikely to happen – because remember, there are such great people in government as Shafter – but if it does, we should follow our consciences and bear the consequences of the unlawful law.
But he goes even further. A private person – note, no longer a free person – should “abstain from the actions that he judges unlawful; and he is to undergo the punishment, which is not unlawful for him to bear; for the private judgment of any person concerning a law enacted in political matters, for the public good, does not take away the obligation of that law, nor deserve a dispensation.”
To compensate for the loss of freedom, Locke offers us religion. As long as we are all free to follow our own religion, we should be grateful. So our freedom has been reduced to freedom of religion. But that itself depends on government ‘tolerating’ our religion.
Nanny Boy thus distinguishes between “political society” and “the care of each man’s soul.” And the care of our souls must be “left entirely to every man’s self.”
And “political society is instituted for no other end, but only to secure every man’s possession of the things of his life.”
It is the duty of government, says Nanny Boy, to safeguard men’s lives and their property. “Therefore the [government] cannot take away these worldly things from this man, or party, and give them to that; nor change propriety amongst fellow subjects (no not even by a law), for a cause that has no relation to the end of civil government.”
Then Nanny Boy poses another hypothetical question. What if government does make laws taking away from one person and giving to another? What if government makes laws “to enrich and advance [it’s] followers .. with the spoils of others. What if the [government] believe[s] that [it] has a right to make such laws, and that they are for the public good; and [it’s] subjects believe the contrary? Who shall be judge between them?”
“I answer,” says Nanny Boy, “God alone.”
So there we are! By ‘consenting’ to relinquish only a tiny fraction of our condition of freedom, so as to have a common mechanism to protect that freedom, Nanny Boy leads us into servitude. Our only remedy is to appeal to Heaven, and to God.
This all brings me to ‘rights’. What a convenient and devious little device.
Nanny Boy refers to ‘rights’ as “civil interests.”
These “civil interests” are the governments business, says Nanny Boy, which must be distinguished from “religion”, which is not the government’s business.
Government “neither can nor ought in any manner to be extended to the salvation of souls.” This is reserved for “religious society”, the end of which “is the public worship of God, and by means thereof the acquisition of eternal life.”
But the government even has a part to play here. This is where Nanny Boy throws us the crumbs left over from our freedom. It is the “law of toleration”. The government’s “duty in the business of toleration” is “certainly very considerable.”
So, together with our “civil interests,” the “law of toleration” in respect of religion constitutes the sum total of our ‘rights’. That’s all that is left of our freedom; which is nothing!
But what exactly are these ‘rights’, this combination of our “civil interests” and “law of toleration.”
Man’s ‘rights’, says Nanny Boy, are “life, liberty, health, and indolence of body; and the possession of outward things, such as money, lands, houses, furniture and the like.”
Anyone violating these ‘rights’ is “checked by the fear of punishment.”
That punishment is deprivation of that person’s civic interests. Taking away from him in proportion to what he has taken from another.
According to Nanny Boy, government should be restricted to remedying these violations. That is the end of civil government.
So when Locke says the government cannot take property from one person and give it to another “for a cause which has no relation to the end of civil government,” this is what he means. Civil government should be restricted to restoring to one person what has been taken from him by another. It does not entitle government to take from one person and give to another because government thinks ‘justice’ requires a different distribution of wealth between people; or because government believes that everyone should be ‘entitled’ to health care; or because government thinks people should be ‘entitled’ to an income in their old age; and so on. Those things are specifically excluded, even by Locke. It is no business of government, says Locke, to take from one person and give to another because one person has provided for his health, old age, and so on, and another hasn’t.
On that I agree with Locke. Freedom includes, and necessarily implies, freedom to screw up. It does not mean freedom to screw up, and then require another to pay to sort out the mess.
But let me return to the other element of Nanny Boy’s ‘rights’. That is tolerance.
In short, Nanny Boy says we have a ‘right’ to expect the government to tolerate whatever religion we wish to pursue in order to save our souls.
But there are certain exceptions: “opinions contrary to human society, or those moral rules which are necessary to the preservation of civil society”; religions which pay allegiance to other governments; and atheists.
So it is this hodgepodge of ‘rights’ that today supposedly constitutes our freedom.
But these ‘rights’ are a dismal failure. They do not enhance our freedom, they undermine and diminish it. They are a charter for oppression and tyranny.
They constitute a tyranny of ‘rights’; the enslavement of man; the enshrinement of ignorance and oppression.
They are the enforcement of pity, sympathy, and compassion. They are charters for abuse, open to what Nietzsche called “interpretation”.
And this is all because Locke, and his imitators, started from the wrong end. They sacrificed man’s freedom for ‘rights’. Whereas they should have preserved man’s condition of freedom absolutely, subject only to those principles men freely and universally agree to adopt. Not by majority consent, but by universal consent.
So Locke took the same ‘social contract’ approach as Hobbes – that man is compelled by the State and society to act in the common good. But he also mobilizes God who, by dispensing rewards and punishments in eternity, knocks some further sense into man.
As Schweitzer says, “the essential point of distinction between them is that with Hobbes society alone plies the whip, while with Locke God and society wield it together.”
Neither could see that before we cede any authority to someone else, including government, we all need to agree on the principles to which they must adhere in exercising that authority.
Now I should give credit where credit is due. Locke did establish rudimentary procedural safeguards against abuse of power by government; he just couldn’t come up with any “ideas” when it came to finding substantive safeguards to protect individual freedom. So he gave us the booby prize – ‘rights’. And now we are showered with ‘rights’.
But we do not build a temple of freedom by stacking one right on top of another like bricks; instead, we build ourselves a prison, a prison governed by a tyranny of rights.
Thanks a bunch, Nanny Boy!
Copyright © Joseph BH McMillan 2015 All Rights Reserved

The Feudalisation of Britain

Although this article addresses the feudalisation of Britain, it is a plague that infects the West as a whole.

The economic cause of this new feudalisation is that giant global corporations are running out of cheap labour in the Third World to sustain their profitability and the disproportionate remuneration packages for their executives.

At the same time, the dishonesty and incompetence of the Western financial industry has plunged Western economies into the worst recession in a century, which has left millions of unemployed and low-paid workers requiring government assistance in order to meet the basic necessities of life.

The West’s financial and corporate elite thus saw an opportunity. The unemployed in the West could be compelled to replace the loss of cheap Third World labour under threat of losing their government assistance. Governments called this scheme ‘austerity’.

A stark admission of this policy came from Britain’s Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, in an interview on Britain’s Channel 4 Dispatches programme, ‘How the Rich get Richer’, presented by Fraser Nelson of the Spectator magazine (17 November, 2014).

When it was explained to him that people working even 10 hours a day were unable to support themselves and their families, and were less well-off than they would be on welfare, Duncan Smith’s answer was that the Government’s welfare reforms would ensure that people would always be better off working than claiming benefits.

But since the Government does not propose to ensure that global corporations and financial institutions be compelled to pay a living wage, Duncan Smith clearly means that the already inadequate welfare support will be cut to such a level that people will be forced to work under any conditions and for any wage under threat of sanction.

The unemployed are to be harvested as a cash crop under threat of starvation and homelessness.

And while the Government relentlessly presses ahead with its feudalisation reforms, forcing many British people, the unemployed and workers alike, to resort to food banks to feed their children, and charity shops to clothe them, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer has been pre-occupied with challenging an EU directive from Brussels to cap bankers’ bonuses.

Yet, bankers’ bonuses are only possible because the Government has pumped billions of pounds into the hands of the incompetent and corrupt financial institutions that brought about this economic catastrophe in the first place. The greatest welfare cheque in history was written out to the greatest economic villains in history.

But to deflect criticism from the villains in the story, the Government, supported by a compliant media itself in the power of the new ‘economic royalists’, or beholden to the Government for its funds, set about demonising the victims by portraying them as welfare ‘scroungers’ crippling the economy, and living off ‘hard-working’ taxpayers.

This demonization of the poor, the vulnerable, and the oppressed, has instilled in even otherwise decent people a sense of contempt which has conditioned them to accept that their fellow human beings ‘deserve’  to suffer indignity, abuse, and hardship at the hands of a morally ambiguous Government, and morally vacuous corporations.

But this is not the first time in recent history that free people have faced the threat of the malevolent aspirations of economic tyrants. It is, however, the first time that they have faced them without a leader of vision up to the challenge.

The last time free people faced such a challenge, the American people, at least, had a leader ready and willing to confront the menace. He was Franklin D Roosevelt.

He faced down ‘the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power.’

He condemned the ‘small group [that] had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people’s property, other people’s money, other people’s labor — other people’s lives.’

And he recognized that ‘against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of government.’

But today, the organized power of government is in the service of the ‘economic dynasties’. It is imposing on its own people an economic tyranny for the benefit of ‘the privileged princes’.

Government is rendering itself the enemy of the people. And when people are forced into serfdom, then they become free to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure their own survival, and regain their dignity and freedom.

Freedom is that one thing that ‘no man gives up but with life itself.’

So it is not surprising that when Duncan Smith was asked whether the government’s policies towards the poor and oppressed might lead to revolution, he was silent.

However, the fear of revolution may just explain the extensive and intrusive surveillance programmes of Western governments. And it may also explain the multitude of ‘threats’ we are told we need to fear; some real, like Islamic terror, for which our own governments are largely responsible; others contrived, like the idea of an expansionist Russia intent on invading Europe.

As long as the people have enough to fear, then Government and the new economic royalty have less to fear – or so they hope.

Joseph BH McMillan

Joseph BH McMillan reviews Philosophy is not Dead by Dr Steven Yates

The biggest problem I had with this book is that it is only available on Kindle, and I like to scribble my thoughts in a book as I go along.

But that small inconvenience aside, this is certainly a book worth reading.

The picture it paints of modern society, diseased with mindless materialism and suffocating political correctness, while sacrificing freedom for indentured slavery to corporate tyranny, is reminiscent of Albert Schweitzer’s The Decay and the Restoration of Civilization (available through Amazon as The Philosophy of Civilization). Of course, Yates does not refer to Schweitzer, because the philosophical ‘establishment’ determined some time ago that Schweitzer was not one of them – perhaps because he blamed “the suicide of civilization” on “philosophy’s renunciation of her duty.”

It is sobering to see that the deficiencies of civilization and philosophy (or philosophers) identified by Schweitzer almost a century ago are much the same deficiencies identified by Yates in 2014.

It is not surprising then that Yates admits that, from the outside at least, philosophy “may look dead – on life support, perhaps.” For some time now, my own view has been that philosophy is in danger of becoming nothing more than an ‘extravagant academic indulgence’ – and from what Yates says about academic philosophy, for those ‘blessed’ with tenure to this exclusive club, philosophy is certainly not dead – the party is in full swing; even though no one is really interested in what they have to say.

This book does not purport to be a definitive work, but rather sets out some preliminary issues that Yates believes need to be addressed if philosophy is to play any significant part in determining what ‘civilization’ may look like in the future. Yates devotes the last three sections of the book to giving some of his preliminary thoughts on the issue.

But for me, it is this statement from the section Materialism or Moral Agency? that holds the key: “Morality absent an authority transcending culture, reason, the quest for happiness (and to avoid unhappiness), commercial gain, etc ., cannot hold.”

Such a morality can only have freedom as its defining principle. And that happens to be the theme of  A ‘Final Theory’ of God – which is my modest attempt to awaken the human spirit to its true moral purpose, and its true moral destiny.

Yates sees philosophers as being “most qualified to serve” the cause of the revival of civilization, but insists that they would need to assume a more prominent place in the public conversation in order to carry out the task. He does acknowledge, however, that the current state of academic philosophy is not particularly well-equipped to assume that role, and that non-academic, or specifically non-tenured philosophers, simply don’t have the funds to indulge in such a luxury.

For me, it matters not who initiates a fundamental reappraisal of the way we live, only that it happens. But I am inclined to think Schweitzer was right: “Civilization can only revive when there shall come into being in a number of individuals a new tone of mind independent of the one prevalent among the crowd and in opposition to it, … It is only an ethical movement which can rescue us from the slough of barbarism, and the ethical comes into existence only in individuals.

I look forward to seeing what Yates concludes philosophers can do, and how, in what, no doubt, will be a more definitive exposition of the preliminary issues he has identified in Philosophy Is Not Dead.