C4's conspiracy thriller Utopia has a fascinating web-site attached, describing how we are being watched by government and others and our privacy invaded - but also the many ways in which we collaborate, willingly or from ignorance, in that process. Did you know for example that the government are considering ways to use ANPR cameras at filling stations to restrict access to fuel for uninsured drivers? Of course it
doesn't have to be the uninsured. You just might be on a list somewhere and making you buy fuel more frequently keeps you under observation and limits your mobility.
Remember - just because you are paranoid, doesn't mean they are not out to get you...
The proposal by South Yorkshire Police Authority to replace police on the beat with PCSOs as the first point of contact with the public is interesting for a variety of reasons. It was of course suggested that this would happen when PCSOs were introduced some 10 years ago. It is surprising perhaps it has taken this long. However the very idea of a separate 'public' cuts against the traditional philosophy of policing in the UK as set out in Peel's Principles of Policing, #7 of which says:
Police, at all times, should maintain a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent upon every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.
A Police Federation spokesman, interviewed on BBC R4 'Today' programme this morning described PCSOs as 'civilians', thus creating a definite sense of us and them. It seems that the modern pattern of policing, supported by police and politicians alike, has abandoned Peel in favour of the idea of an occupying force, keeping down a hostile populace.
That shift of perspective is dangerous. See for example Principles 2, 3 and 4:
Principle #2: The ability of the police to perform their duties is dependent upon the public approval of police actions.
Principle #3: Police must secure the willing co-operation of the public in voluntary observation of the law to be able to secure and maintain the respect of the public.
Principle #4: The degree of co-operation of the public that can be secured diminishes proportionately to the necessity of the use of physical force.
The more the Police consider themselves outside and above the general public, the worse it will get.
I wish very much that I could report the riots now tearing across England as the opening gambit of anarchist revolution. Unfortunately, I can’t. The riots appear ideologically inchoate: They are a phenomenon born of rage, and rage is irrational, no matter the reason or unreason of the original spark (the killing, by police, of alleged criminal Mark Duggan).
The ever-opportunistic statist left, of course, would have us treat the riots as a reaction to Conservative/Lib-Dem “austerity” measures, but that explanation doesn’t hold much water. People who like big government tend to have big government, armed and in uniform, do their rioting and looting for them.
The American right doesn’t constrain itself to wishing — its flacks merely make the “anarchy” claim and then move on, feeling they’ve added a new piece of confirmatory evidence to their ongoing argument that anarchy is “that special lawlessness which is the hallmark of poorly socialized young males” (the editors of National Review, “Rioting, Anarchy, and the U.K.,” August 10) or “the logical conclusion to the decades-long disintegration of civilized behavior” (Robert Taylor, “Anarchy in Britain,”The American Spectator, August 11.
Even the paleo-”libertarian” right seems to have gone Buckleyite for the moment, analyzing the riots less from a libertarian perspective than as “conservatives who recognize that the state sometimes is, and is today as never before, the necessary instrument of our proximate deliverance.” Unlike their idol, Murray N. Rothbard, who was able to optimistically muse, as the North Vietnamese Army overran Saigon, that at least he was witnessing the death of a state, LewRockwell.com’s bloggers seem to find cause for joy only in the opportunity to rehabilitate racist hatemonger Enoch Powell and explain the riots as a function of Austrian time preference theory, with a heavy dose of the former’s prejudices informing the latter analysis.
This, unfortunately, is typical of the “paleo” response to any development which seemingly threatens to upset the teacart of “bourgeois virtues” or “middle-class values.” When it becomes apparent that that teacart has long perched precariously atop a house of state-capitalist card tricks, they resort to race-baiting to obscure the issue, as any reader of the infamous Ron Paul newsletters can attest.
If true anarchy is present in the riots, and I believe it is, it’s to be found in ad hoc mutual aid societies springing up in affected neighborhoods. People are coming together to defend each others’ lives and possessions, in the absence of political government’s ability to do so or interest in doing so. Anarchy is not society without rules — it’s society without rulers. And it works, whenever it’s required, or even allowed, to.
As for the riots themselves, no, I cannot commend them. But to the extent that they challenge the power of the state and create not just the possibility, but the necessity, of “temporary autonomous zones” in which people learn through practice that they neither need, nor should abide, the state, I can appreciate them.
These are from the Fox News Facebook pages after they interviewed an atheist. This last quote I suppose demonstrates knuckledragging stupidity more than it does Christianity, but all the comments listed here bear a striking resemblance to the sort of stuff we see from Islamic fundamentalists all the time. I don't think they are being ironic though...
In one of the nastiest threads in a while at Samizdata (perhaps since this one) commenter Subotai Bahadur says:
It is striking that in a group of 700 selected future leaders, no one resisted. No one charged him as he reloaded, no one even threw rocks. In an average American high school, there were at least a handful who resisted, led by one who was already wounded. Not claiming superiority, just noting that the cultures are very different under stress.
My comment asking him how he knows this has been blocked. It may appear but I'm not holding my breath. Samizdata has been not much more than a mutual admiration society for quite some time.
I love the public library service for what it did for me as a child and as a student and as an adult. I love it because its presence in a town or a city reminds us that there are things above profit, things that profit knows nothing about, things that have the power to baffle the greedy ghost of market fundamentalism, things that stand for civic decency and public respect for imagination and knowledge and the value of simple delight.
Although I often complain about the degree to which the state attempts to control our lives, I still believe there are some things that can best be done collectively and the Public Library service is one of them. Like him, I am what I am because of the Library service. The only reason I don't use it so much now is because it has been hammered for years to the point where my available branches are pretty useless in comparison to the libraries of my own youth.
I have no ideological commitment to the idea of such a service being provided by the local council, but at the moment I see no alternative. I definitely don't see any market based option. There might be if we really had free markets, but we don't. What we have is a heavily regulated economy where the regulation is for the benefit of big corporates. Unfortunately the history of the last 20 years of library provision in the UK suggests we probably won't be seeing any other usable option either.
...both China and India underwent annual economic growth averaging around 10% per year throughout the decade. The sheer scale of it is mind-numbing; it's as if the entire population of the USA and the EU combined had gone from third-world poverty to first-world standards of living. (There are still a lot of dirt-poor peasants left behind in villages, and a lot of economic — never mind political — problems with both India and China's developed urban sectors, but overall, life is vastly better today than it was a decade ago for around a billion people.)
The number of people living in poverty and with unsafe water supplies world-wide today is about the same as it was in 1970. Only difference is, there were 3 billion of us back then and today we're nearer to 7 billion. Upshot: the proportion of us humans on this planet who are living in third world poverty (unable to afford enough food, water, clothing and shelter) has actually been halved.
Africa averaged around 5% growth throughout the decade, too. It's unevenly distributed, and there's still the fallout from the hideous war in the Congo, but: net improvement. And Africa is huge — again, over a billion people have, in many cases, seen a significant improvement in their wealth and health.