A year ago, I wrote a piece here about the great art of the Gothic and Renaissance periods, and how we owe its existence to the Dead Hand of the (Tuscan) State. But where should we look for actions of slightly more modern government working to enrich our lives? Certainly not in the unending flow of nutty, illiberal laws; nor in the insidious creep of compliance culture (subject of a memorable Stephen Fry podcast). So, here’s an idea: look to the British Library.
More specifically, their Turning the Pages project, 10 years in the developing, that put our national library in the very first rank of learning innovation worldwide. (See the video.) The project’s achievement has been to digitize 15 (so far) of the Library’s most valuable manuscripts, and deliver them inside an interactive online environment that re-creates the experience of handling them in the raw.
[Read more →]
February 26, 2009 No Comments
So, who wants to hear a joke?
Q: What’s the difference between libertarianism and anarchism?
A: Under anarchism, the poor people get to shoot back.
Boom, boom. I guess that’s more a caricature than a joke, as such. Anyway, I’m not here for the standup. What I want to address is the arts, partly by way of reply to Chris’s post here last week, specifically the estimable libertarian objection to arts funding. In libertopia, arts funding is for private individuals. “There is no such thing as society” (some of them really write stuff like that, non-ironically), so spending on the collective is wasted. Immoral. Theft. In any case, the Dead Hand of the State (10,300 Google hits for a phrase I’ve never heard anyone actually speak) can only have a pernicious impact on private interaction, and what could be more private than art?
Let’s look at some evidence. [Read more →]
February 18, 2008 Comments Off
A kidney patient who travelled to the Philippines to search for a live donor has defended his decision to become a so-called “transplant tourist”.
Stories like this hit the bullseye of the inherent tension between ‘liberal’ and ‘left’ ways of looking at the world. [Read more →]
December 6, 2007 Comments Off
“I’m not pro-smoking just pro-freedom. “Having a pint and a cigarette in a pub is one of the last great enjoyments left for the working classes. “
You have to like the cut of his mainsail. It makes you wish he was right, but alas he’s 180 degrees wrong. Calls to liberty – working class or otherwise – are spurious on this one. As much as hard hats on a building site, or breathing apparatus down a mine, smoking legislation is about workplace safety. I suppose any staff who object to a pub pea souper could always work somewhere else. Your average Victorian mill owner would have agreed.
Tell that to the student working off his overdraft, or the single mum who needs employment that fits round school hours, or the 50-something asthmatic roadie who’s plain forgotten how to do anything else. Or any number of other constructs a hack-philosopher might invent. Can any of these make a meaningful choice, a free weighing of the alternatives, before selecting their place and conditions of work? That we don’t always have a real choice is a cornerstone of left thought; it’s all about the power, stupid. Asking: “Who has it; who doesn’t; how does that change things” is what separates liberals from the ‘I want, I want, it’s soooo unfair’ breed of prep-school ‘libertarians’. (That’s a misnomer, of course; these chaps are nowhere near as concerned about liberty as they are about property.)
In any case, there’s nothing special about private property that gets us off our obligations to each other. This is no more a case of liberty at threat than are the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002. You’re not allowed to poison your staff, not even minimum-wage workers. There’s an easy, costless way to internalize your externality: get off your backside, take three paces to the door and smoke outside. You could use the exercise.
First posted at Liberal Conspiracy.
November 7, 2007 Comments Off