Monday, March 23, 2009

Sean comes round

Bishop Hill recently posted a video of a speech by Sean Gabb, of the Libertarian Alliance. Gabb quotes from the same document I quote from on the masthead here. He feels we need a new constitutional settlement. And he has stepped back from his monarchism:

I was, until recently, a committed monarchist. I now have to admit that the Queen has spent the past half century breaking her Coronation Oath at every opportunity. The only documents she has ever seemed reluctant to sign are personal cheques. Conservatives need to remember that our tradition extends not only through Edmund Burke to the Cavaliers, but also through Tom Paine to Oliver Cromwell. We live in an age where it is necessary to be radical to be conservative.
I've felt for some time now that there's little point trying to debate with anyone who declares they are the sole ultimate owner of their person, their own body, their own thoughts, then in the next breath demands to be the property of a monarch. It's good to see Gabb stepping away from this ludicrous position.


Trooper Thompson said...


Anonymous said...

I wasn't aware until now that he'd shifted position. That explains the hesitancy in Sean's video.

But Bishop Hill's commentators are firmly supportive of the Queen.

Peter Risdon said...

The speech I linked to and quoted from was also rather cooly received by the assembled conservatives. Cretins: Unionist, monarchist conservatives have been God's gift to New Labour. I think I might post about this.

Anonymous said...

"in the next breath demands to be the property of a monarch": that must be one of the feeblest straw man arguments I've ever read.

Peter Risdon said...

It's a perfectly valid, if pejorative, description of the status of a subject.

Anonymous said...

Pre-1688, maybe; but even then I doubt it. Now - risible. The only sizeable bunch of people I can think of in 20th century Britain who were properties of a monarch were the Stalin-worshippers of the CPGB. In the 21st century - I dunno, a few of the slaves brought into the country by Middle Eastern potentates? A few of the mental defectives wired up for suicide bombing?

Peter Risdon said...

I don't buy this Glorious Revolution nostalgia, but then I'm not a Tory.

Whether the power of the crown is exercised directly or through Parliament, whether or not the monarch promises to protect the liberties of the people, those liberties are granted not innate (this is why the wording of the Declaration of Independence was so significant) and the power of the crown is unlimited.

That makes us chattels. If anyone or any institution holds unlimited power over another person or thing, it owns it. There are no title deeds but then there never were and there weren't and aren't in the circumstances you iterate in which you acknowledge ownership is a valid concept.

Realistically, the monarch is unable to refuse to sign any legislation today. So even if you are a partisan for the glorious revolution, the settlement it established no longer exists.

But I'm not a partisan for the G.R. I prefer to take the power myself, to be autonomous. I want government limited by constitution, not by the unreliable whims of a monarch.

And I find the concept of being the property of the state or of a monarch equally revolting. While there is unlimited power in government, that's the state of affairs.

Anonymous said...

Innate liberties advertised by a "driver of negroes"? Pull the other one.

Peter Risdon said...

That's just ad hominem, a logical fallacy: a person is wrong because they had some unpleasant quality, perhaps including hypocrisy.

But having said that, the position of the founding fathers with respect to slavery was by no means as hypocritical as you suggest.

Anonymous said...

And their attitude to genocide/ethnic cleansing of the Red Indians? Doesn't wash: they weren't remotely persuaded about "human rights" for black men or red men: what they wanted was some spindoctor's trick to let them claim their British rights while committing treason. Jefferson was the Goebbels of his day - just the boy to come up with high-falutin' hogwash of justification. Hell, never mind black or red men; read the Declaration and you'll see that they didn't even approve of civil rights for the French-speaking Roman Catholics.

Peter Risdon said...

Goebbels? By the long established custom of Godwin, that's a concession of defeat in debate.

Quite obviously, a racist could have a perfect conception of innate rights, but an imperfect conception of the group to which such rights pertain.

No amount of this sort of ad hominem can have any bearing on the debate because ad hominem is a logical fallacy - they were nasty, therefore their arguments are invalid and they can't have meant them.

The rights they claimed were not then British in practice, nor are they yet rights we can claim here. They were British in conception, but to claim them we need to become a republic.

Throwing off a monarch is not treason - the insistence that free born people be subject to one is.

Peter Risdon said...

"they weren't remotely persuaded about "human rights" for black men or red men"

This is simply untrue. What is true is that they weren't unanimous. Jefferson and Paine campaigned against slavery, other revolutionaries supported it. I know Jefferson kept slaves, the circumstances of this are well known and a great deal more complicated than you accept.

I really don't understand your hostility to the great liberal revolution and declaration, and your attachment to a tyranny that was imposed at the point of a sword, and is maintained the same way, and that is available to be co opted by whatever flavour of scum we have floating on the top of the political pond at any given time.

Anonymous said...

My objection is that so many fall for all this taradiddle without the excuse that Americans have of being brainwashed with it for years.

Now, if you were to ignore that shabby advertising flier, the Declaration, and hymn the praises of that sober business plan, the Constitution, that would make more sense. I have a higher regard for the Constitution than the American governing class has (particularly the Supreme Court) judging by the frequency with which they ignore it.

If you think the Declaration a big deal, you have to explain why the Confederate States were not permitted to secede. The answer, I suspect, is because the Declaration was humbug.

Trooper Thompson said...


denigrating the Founding Fathers again, I see.

Your point about the American Civil War is ludicrous. The Confederate States were prevented from seceding by force of arms, not courthouse wrangling over the Declaration of Independence.

Anonymous said...

"grating the Founding Fathers again": I hold them to have been politicians. What do you hold them to have been?

"The Confederate States were prevented from seceding by force of arms": quite, which shows what the later rulers of the USA really thought of the Declaration.

Trooper Thompson said...

The Declaration wasn't written for the benefit of the 'later rulers of the USA', but for the sovereign people.

Trooper Thompson said...

Sorry, I didn't answer your first question:

They were politicians, orators, writers, fighters, many things. The wisdom of Jefferson teaches us still.

Anonymous said...

The indoctrination certainly worked on you, Trooper.

Trooper Thompson said...

It certainly did. Freedom, sovereignty of the people, limited government, God-given rights, the Second Amendment - I love it all.

Anonymous said...

"God-given rights": superstition too!

Trooper Thompson said...

Rather than your heavily-edited version of US history and the ad homs, why don't you explain your view of sovereignty and its rightful resting place, or justify the monarchy, or something?

Unknown said...

OK, as a "Roundhead" I'll have a go.

I'd rather have the Queen as an effectively powerless and unelected Head of State by accident of birth, because the manner in which she became Head of State is so patently ridiculous.

The alternative usually put forward is that of an elected King/Queen (called a "President") who can then use their "democratic legitimacy" to impose their will.

No Thanks.

That is just too much power to have in a single pair of hands.

Now if you had attacked the concept of Royal Prerogative which allows Gordon Brown to take on the Queen's mantle and royally shaft this country that would be a different matter.

Attacking the Queen instead is just knee-jerk schoolboy "republicanism" without apparently understanding the real issue.

Trooper Thompson said...

Er... are you sure you're a 'roundhead'? Sounds like you would have turned coat in 1648.

'The alternative usually put forward...'

By who? Why mention this, only to knock it down? Straw man alert.

'Now if you had attacked the concept of Royal Prerogative...'

It goes without saying, surely, that attacking the concept of monarchy includes this?

'Attacking the Queen instead is just knee-jerk schoolboy "republicanism" without apparently understanding the real issue.'

So what's the real issue, then? The one you mention above? If so, what is the valid argument against the royal prerogative, and what would you propose to replace it if anything?

Unknown said...

Steady on. Cromwell himself tried to come to an arrangement with the King only to find the King lying and scheming to restart the Civil War. He left Cromwell no choice but to execute him.

OK, I apologise if you think that replacing the monarch with a President is a "straw man" argument - it's just that it's the only option I ever see put forward. I would rather an Oath was made to the People rather than any individual Head of State, but I don't know of any Republic anywhere in the world where this is the case. I would be genuinely interested to learn of a Republic without an elected King/President. Can you give me an example?

Because to me, the real issue is the concentration of power in a single pair of hands. Power should be distributed as widely (and thinly) as possible. All the "Republicans" I meet fail to understand this basic point, preferring to see a King Gordon Brown misusing power than an essentially powerless Queen Elizabeth Windsor. I don't want to put words in your mouth or be accused of making another straw man argument. So please explain what you understand by a "Republic" and how that differs from the dictionary definition of "a government having a chief of state who is not a monarch and who in modern times is usually a president".

Trooper Thompson said...

"Cromwell himself tried to come to an arrangement with the King only to find the King lying and scheming to restart the Civil War. He left Cromwell no choice but to execute him."

Well, yes but it wasn't a chess game between the two of them.

The presbyterian faction (of the parliamentary camp) had been forced out by the 'independents', due to the latter's powerbase - the New Model Army.

Some of the former - presbyterians who favoured a deal with the king and also opposed and feared the radical intent of some within the army, switched sides and supported the royalist risings in 1648.

"I would be genuinely interested to learn of a Republic without an elected King/President. Can you give me an example?"

I dare say there are some. It is certainly the case that the degree of autocratic power invested in the post of President varies from country to country. Furthermore Presidents often exercise more power than is legitimate.

But we are straying from the original point in question, which is where sovereignty should reside. This is separate from arguing over keeping the Queen.

Laban said...

1) the monarchy is the living totem of our tribe.

In the US, to be republican is to be an American patriot, in Ireland to be an Irish patriot, in France to be a French patriot. There is no patriotic British republican tradition - what republicanism exists is, often explicitly, anti-British.

2) Monarchy, like religion, appeals to the irrational in human nature.

I use irrational here to mean something which human reason is ill-equipped to grasp or comprehend, but which may nonetheless play an important role in human affairs. Complex or imaginary numbers could be an analogy. I can't grasp the concept of the square root of -1, yet it plays an important role in physics (I know there are also numbers known as irrational numbers).

A society can get rid of monarchy, just as it can get rid of religion. But irrational urges in human beings cannot be so easily removed. If they cannot be expressed via the structures built up in Britain over the centuries, they will find an outlet elsewhere.

The last three Western European countries to abolish their monarchies were Germany, Spain and Italy.

The first two monarchies were abolished under reforming leftwing governments. Both countries became authoritarian dictatorships.

(Italy had the authoritarian dictatorship first, then abolished the monarchy by a 54% vote in an extremely dodgy plebiscite just after WW2...)

The Greeks also dropped the monarch - twice. But that's not really Western Europe, is it ? Not if you have to get through Albania.

Trooper Thompson said...

"the monarchy is the living totem of our tribe"

This may be fine if you're hunter/gatherers wandering through Siberia, but it's hardly a valid foundation for a modern constitution, which should be based on reason. There is nothing wrong in having an irrational starting point, a presupposition so to speak. The Declaration of Independence has this in spades, but when it comes to devising the constitutional architecture of the state, irrationality should be left behind.

But, as I said above, the point in question is sovereignty, not your bloody totemus in vitro.

"A society can get rid of monarchy, just as it can get rid of religion"

There's a huge difference between these two things you casually place together.