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July 30, 2011


Left Outside

"So, why then is Guido so keen on public opinion in this context when the public reject principles that any libertarian must accept? Could it be that he doesn’t have a coherent position at all, but is just a rabble-rousing populist?"

I don't think we'll need Rentoul for this one.

Peter Packer

Fawkes is a "political arsonist". His is not a logical position. He has a grudge against the "liberal elite", politicians in particular. A debate on Capital Punishment is designed to embarass Parliament. See www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/31/interview-paul-staines-guido-fawkes and www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/5173475/Guido-Fawkes-the-colourful-life-of-the-man-who-brought-down-Damian-McBride.html for the evidence in Staines own worda.


He could be operating stratgically to create new voter issue dimensions. That will disrupt existing voter coalitions and make existing politcal parties less cohesive. Perhaps he is hoping that in the confusion, a new ideology like libertarianism could slip into being more influential.

Libertarians are not just split on the death penalty, they are also pretty indifferent (at least when it comes to convicted murderers). Not that big a deal one way or the other. But it IS a big deal for many liberals and some conservatives that are currently all mixed into the labour and tory parties, both mps and voters, Bringing the issue to the table could create choas within existing coalitions.

Peter Risdon

"You cannot, comfortably, be both a libertarian and a democrat because a libertarian must believe that public opinion is wrong on many issues."

Most people feel this, not just libertarians. Marxists, as you demonstrate from time to time, have ideas like alienation and false consciousness to account for the mystifying phenomenon of other people disagreeing with (or indeed detesting) their ideas.

Democrats seek to persuade rather than compel, whether they are democratic conservatives, democratic socialists or democratic libertarians.


'He has a grudge against the "liberal elite"'

...so he wants to give them license to kill.

What could possibly go wrong?


@ Peter - I take your point; that qualifier "comfortably" is doing some work.
You could argue that libertarianism is about substantive principles and democracy about procedural ones, so you could say: "I advocate liberty, but concede to majority opinion". If you do this, though, you cannot also claim that liberty is the fundamental, ultimate, ideal.
(And I don't think this suffices to justify Guido's position).


Off-topically, I love the fact that one of Bryan Caplan's alternatives to democracy is "for people who know more than the average voter to stop being so modest". If only he would follow his own advice!


Derailing further, but Caplan's book is insufferable. He basically mocks everyone for not having the same views as him and then advises professors not to tell their students about the assumptions economic models make - just to tell them they are 'right'.

Paul Evans

Chris/Peter, I started replying to this here but it got too long, so I've posted it on my own site - over here: http://nevertrustahippy.blogspot.com/2011/07/democracy-libertarianism-and-petitions.html


Could it be that Guido is just pushing his media profile? Or is that too cynical of me?


I think it's confusing because you're looking for some kind of coherent ideology, Chris.

Remember the Swiss minaret ban? A referendum proscribed the construction of minarets on mosques - you'd think libertarians would come down firmly on the side of individual freedom and property rights against the restrictive impositions of the majority.

That's not what happened - most of the internet libertarians were overjoyed by the ban. The lesson here is that self-described "libertarians" will enthusiastically support anything that moves public debate in a wackier right wing direction, regardless of whether it's in conflict with the principles they claim to support.

The reason for that is simple - there are practically no actual "libertarians" in this country. There's just a few thousand bullshitters who don't want to pay any taxes and will throw their weight behind basically anything that annoys lefties... Because there's really nothing more to the phenomenon than "Let's be as much of a bunch of reactionary dicks about absolutely everything".

It's not more complicated than that.


Does this mean I can have my hand guns back?


No windsock I don't think you are being cynical -- look at those two newspaper profiles I posted earlier. I see him as something of a microMurdoch of the blogosphere. Like Murdoch he aims to exercise political power, of a mostly negative sort, while pursuing his business interests at the same time. He has gained an early mover advantage in political blogging (see Guardian) and aggressive populism can only help him consolidate and expand his position.


I don't accept the proposition that Paul Staines is a libertarian. I'll drag out a very long argument about his politics and history. I've delivered this argument previously, so apologies if you have read this in a slightly different form.


Paul Staines 1: PS1 was active in the libertarian wing of the Federation of Conservative Students in the early/mid 1980s. The libertarian wing formed alliances with the traditional right (eg Monday Clubbers) to overpower the moderate, reformist tendency amongst conservative students. In the end, the libertarian wing became so strong that it could dominate FCS without need for alliances, and was looking towards the Young Conservatives for expansion of its activities. It all ended when the Conservative Party dissolved FCS which was becoming an embarrassment. The Conservative Party also put strict controls on associate groups to prevent the entryism that was prevalent in the Labour Party.

PS1 ventured into business at this time, selling T shirts with political slogans. Money and politics are a consistent Paul Staines theme.

There are two unusual incidents during the PS1 student politics phase. One is the alleged proposal for a tactical alliance with the BNP. The other is Staines' membership of the Social Democratic Party when he was a self claimed libertarian after reading Karl Popper at the age of thirteen.

Paul Staines 2: After leaving Higher education, PS2 evolved as a bag carrier for David Hart, the right wing eccentric beloved of Margaret Thatcher for his strike breaking activities during the 1984/1985 NUM dispute. PS2 emerged too late to have any involvement when Hart was most active, but he fronted the right wing briefings that Hart and associates published and funded. PS2 travelled the right wing globe a bit, firing guns and hanging out with UNITA in Angola and the Contras in Nicaragua. However his UK based activities are still interesting even though he was stuck at home writing and editing (all of the "offices" for the organisations for which PS2 worked were accommodation bureaux or letter drops).

Hart's most prominent "organisation" was the Committee for a Free Britain which published newspaper adverts in support of conservative causes. Here's a quote from _New Right discourse on race and sexuality_ by Anna Marie Smith:

"The Conservative Party released the advertisement which listed four book titles, including Young, Gay and Proud during the General Election. In addition to this official campaign, the Committee for a Free Britain launched a series of unofficial advertisements featuring Betty Sheridan, a member of Haringey's Parents Rights Group. Sheridan stated, 'I live in Haringey, I'm married with two children. And I'm scared. If you vote LABOUR they'll go on teaching my kids about GAYS & LESBIANS instead of giving them proper lessons.'

Section 28 should therefore be regarded as the product of a concerted effort on the part of extra-parliamentary right-wing groups and Conservative Party members to homosexualize leftist local governments."

As a "foreign policy analyst" for the Committee for a Free Britain, it is implausible that PS2 was unaware of this campaign, whether or not it was conducted during his period of office.

PS2 also worked for British Briefing, a smear journal against left wing MPs and trades unionists, provided to large companies on subscription. British Briefing was founded by people with close connections to the US and British secret services, but the paper was in decline when PS2 was employed there. PS2 is very glib about the experience: "The only scary thing about those publications was the mailing list - people like George Bush - and the fact that Hart would talk to the head of British Intelligence for an hour. I used to think it was us having a laugh, putting some loony right-wing sell in, and that somebody somewhere was taking it seriously." I don't consider the destruction of careers and relationships to be a joke.

Those briefings and journals were intentional propaganda, funded by multinational companies and right wing nutters, but who provided the information?

Recent newspaper reports have stated that Paul Staines has no formal training as a journalist. Idiots. He informally learned to write by experts.

Paul Staines 2.5: Drugs and dance finished off PS2's previous career.

Paul Staines 3: Globe trotting financial dealer (how, what qualifications?) and occasional outspoken writer on ethics: "I speak as a former broker. I would like to say that I worked tirelessly in pursuit of my client's best interest, but in reality I worked tirelessy in pursuit of brokerage."

PS3 missed out on his career in accountancy: "If as a Libertarian you take the view that the State enslaves and steals from you via taxes, you won't have any qualms about protecting your property from tax-thieves. Silent Banking, a controlled circulation publication from Scope International used for the training of law enforcement agents to counter money laundering, gives useful tips on how to do it. Offshore credit cards are a good method, untraceable earnings are paid offshore into an account linked to a Visa card!"

PS3 goes bankrupt, but at least he gives a clue to the money to his bankers.

Notice how the man cannot keep his gob shut.

Paul Staines 4: PS4 founds the Guido blog. It is all hush, hush, but he published phone numbers that are traceable by a ten second web search to Paul Staines. Guido never discloses sources, but any allegation without an indication of origin is just smear. Guido proclaims that he is untouchable under UK libel law because his server is located overseas and likewise his publishing company. Please don't take legal advice from Guido. Similarly, don't take advice on libel from the mates of him who have sent "take down" notices to Guido's critics.


So who is Paul Staines? He considers himself to be a libertarian, but he is willing to ally himself with authoritarian right wingers for strategic reasons. No doubt he is an affable character who is open to a variety of social company, including lefties.

There is a lot that stinks about the guy. During the PS2 era, Staines hung out with unpleasant people, and thus we have to question his current (undisclosed) sources. Where did the Red Rag [political scandal site that never appeared] leak originate?

Staines is nonetheless a "useful idiot" who continues to serve the oppressive right.

Jacob Richardson

Staines also called for the use of water cannons against student demonstrators. He now courts with Tory fundamentalists such as Philip Davies, whom he refers to as "Phil". If Guido Fawkes is a libertarian, then I am Guido Fawkes. The point should be the complete illegitimacy of bigoted authoritarian reactionaries referring to themselves as such.

And in the United States, the legal costs of death penalty trials (for people more than often actually innocent) costs tens of billions of dollars. Even ignoring basically ethical and moral refutation, this entirely disproves the dehumanized "cost of prison" argument.

Chris Brooke

He's an idiotic attention-seeker. It's best not to pay him any attention.


I came to the conclusion Guido is an authoritarian who wants to take drugs and be left alone to make money.
There's very little which can be called libertarian about him once you scratch the surface.


The most Libertarian people I know or have known are left wing.

The issue of political philosophy is how should the collective power of society be employed? What is a legitimate and moral use of power? Some self identified Libertarians seem to try and think about the issue and others are insincere.

Democracy and Liberty may not be compatible; but that does depend on how you define them. As there are different conceptions of both ideas you get quickly into confusion unless you define the versions you are referring to. As Bertrand Russell pointed out some versions of democracy, e.g. THE GENERAL WILL, are in fact totalitarian. British thinkers from Free born John Lilburne and Tom Paine, to Locke and Mill conceive of democracy as a idea involving checks and balances and respect for personal liberty and human welfare.

Now if only Paine and Lilburne were around to blog that would be interesting!


That's (the?) one point that differentiates neoconservatives (the real ones, not the ones the press call so) from libertarians and paleoconservatives: they recognise that living in a democracy means a high intervention from the State (they have taken Tocqueville seriously). If you like or accept democracy (my case, following Pierre Manent, is that you have to love it but not too much) you have to come to terms with a 'social State'.
The contradiction you point out is real, but, living in a democracy, that contradiction happens everytime the mejority votes aginst you, that is, mainly all the time. That doesn't mean to become an adversary of democracy or change your ideas: you just live with it. After all, the world of politics, as we know from Plato, is not the world of reason.

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