Let us now praise famous Benn

Tony Benn, 'Free at Last!'I’m currently working my way through Tony Benn’s 1991-2001 diaries, Free at Last!, which I picked up on Monday. I greatly enjoyed Benn’s 1980s diaries when I read them in the early nineties – back when my main objection to the Labour Party was that it was too right-wing – and the latest volume is equally well-written and stimulating.

Tony Benn certainly has his faults: like most politicians he is wildly egocentric at times, and his judgment can be pretty wayward: he describes Mao as the “greatest man of the twentieth century”, and has this bizarre obsession with insisting on smoking in non-smoking compartments on trains, to the extent of carrying around a “Smoking” sticker to put over any “No Smoking” sign while he lights up his pipe!

But you’ve got to admire his commitment to democratic principles (his admiration for Mao notwithstanding), and there is something heartening about the continuing verve and energy of the man, even as he moved into his seventies. He retains an infectious, almost childlike enthusiasm – for example, when he is eagerly describing the new video camera he has bought (“instead of having a viewfinder, you watch it on a screen about three inches in diameter. It’s very, very good”) so that he can go round the Houses of Parliament making an unofficial “behind-the-scenes” film for schoolchildren – he the veteran MP, former cabinet minister and Privy Councillor, behaving like a young boy launching into a school project with his new gadget.

To be honest, that continuing mental liveliness alone is almost enough to persuade me to return to socialism. Otherwise I can just picture myself in fifteen years time, giving patronisingly tolerant but worldly-wise advice to my sons about how “It’s all very well supporting Labour when you’re young and don’t have any responsibilities, but once you start paying your taxes you’ll soon discover the world doesn’t quite work like that”, and quoting Margaret Thatcher’s line at them about how “The facts of life are invariably Tory”. And so on, as my sons roll their eyes and get angry with me as I used to get angry with my father for saying just the same things.

OK, yes, I’m having one of those early-thirties aargh-I’m-turning-into-my-father moments, but I do find my heart stirred when I read things like Benn’s summary of a short speech at the Labour Party conference in 1994:

I spoke for exactly three minutes: a very short speech saying that the Labour Party represented the use of the ballot box to redress imbalance, and we should liberate labour and make capital democratically accountable, have more democracy and raise hope.

Certainly that line about the need to “make capital democratically accountable” makes me think. OK, yes, I know what that often ends up as in the end. But it’s a reminder that capital has enormous power over how we live, and it’s a power over which we have very little real democratic control. Perhaps, in the end, capitalism is (to paraphrase Churchill) the worst way to run an economy apart from all the others, but it would still be a shame to lose even the very aspiration of greater democracy in the economy and the workplace.

On the other hand, perhaps I should just vote Conservative on the grounds that I am being a good Marxist and voting on the basis of my class interest. πŸ˜‰

Finally, it has to be said that one comment made by one of Benn’s friends some time in 1991 has proven rather more prophetic than Benn would have wished: the friendly warning that he risked becoming seen as an “eccentric old socialist gentleman”. My wife’s parents went to a “literary luncheon” in Aldeburgh earlier this year at which Tony Benn was the guest of honour, and they suspected they were probably the only people in the entire audience who were (i) under 60 and (ii) Labour voters. The man whose very name struck fear into the hearts of the middle classes for a quarter of a century has become a National Treasure. “Those whom the gods would destroy they first make loveable.”

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116 Responses to Let us now praise famous Benn

  1. Nick Jones says:

    Yes, I’m not sure what making capital democratically accountable means, except in the context of Trade Unionism. Democracy in the workplace is to me one of the most significant socialist principles. I have some experience of working as a (rather lazy) Trade Union Officer in the public sector and the Trade Unions did sterling work in defending the legal, employment and health and safety rights of its members, testified by the 90% membership rate in our office and the fact that management were forced to consult and cooperate with the workers’ representatives. In fact, the trade union on balance made things run more smoothly rather than throwing a spanner in the works (I hasten to add that I didn’t make much of a contribution!)
    In Turkey where I work now, if not outright banned, the trade unions are treated brutally, leaders imprisoned and members hounded by employers. Needless to say, the interests of workers are not served well, there is no concept of permanent emnployment, health and safety at work and no dignity in working under these conditions.

  2. Nick Jones says:

    Yes, I’m not sure what making capital democratically accountable means, except in the context of Trade Unionism. Democracy in the workplace is to me one of the most significant socialist principles. I have some experience of working as a (rather lazy) Trade Union Officer in the public sector and the Trade Unions did sterling work in defending the legal, employment and health and safety rights of its members, testified by the 90% membership rate in our office and the fact that management were forced to consult and cooperate with the workers’ representatives. In fact, the trade union on balance made things run more smoothly rather than throwing a spanner in the works (I hasten to add that I didn’t make much of a contribution!)
    In Turkey where I work now, if not outright banned, the trade unions are treated brutally, leaders imprisoned and members hounded by employers. Needless to say, the interests of workers are not served well, there is no concept of permanent emnployment, health and safety at work and no dignity in working under these conditions.

  3. Nick Jones says:

    Yes, I’m not sure what making capital democratically accountable means, except in the context of Trade Unionism. Democracy in the workplace is to me one of the most significant socialist principles. I have some experience of working as a (rather lazy) Trade Union Officer in the public sector and the Trade Unions did sterling work in defending the legal, employment and health and safety rights of its members, testified by the 90% membership rate in our office and the fact that management were forced to consult and cooperate with the workers’ representatives. In fact, the trade union on balance made things run more smoothly rather than throwing a spanner in the works (I hasten to add that I didn’t make much of a contribution!)
    In Turkey where I work now, if not outright banned, the trade unions are treated brutally, leaders imprisoned and members hounded by employers. Needless to say, the interests of workers are not served well, there is no concept of permanent emnployment, health and safety at work and no dignity in working under these conditions.

  4. Nick Jones says:

    Yes, I’m not sure what making capital democratically accountable means, except in the context of Trade Unionism. Democracy in the workplace is to me one of the most significant socialist principles. I have some experience of working as a (rather lazy) Trade Union Officer in the public sector and the Trade Unions did sterling work in defending the legal, employment and health and safety rights of its members, testified by the 90% membership rate in our office and the fact that management were forced to consult and cooperate with the workers’ representatives. In fact, the trade union on balance made things run more smoothly rather than throwing a spanner in the works (I hasten to add that I didn’t make much of a contribution!)
    In Turkey where I work now, if not outright banned, the trade unions are treated brutally, leaders imprisoned and members hounded by employers. Needless to say, the interests of workers are not served well, there is no concept of permanent emnployment, health and safety at work and no dignity in working under these conditions.

  5. Nick Jones says:

    Marxist Literary Prof. Terry Eagleton, in the days before he lost his faith, was involved in a Marxist/Catholic journal (just watch those circulation figures soar!)called Slant, one of whose aims was to ‘materialise the body of Christ on the shop-floor’!

  6. Nick Jones says:

    Marxist Literary Prof. Terry Eagleton, in the days before he lost his faith, was involved in a Marxist/Catholic journal (just watch those circulation figures soar!)called Slant, one of whose aims was to ‘materialise the body of Christ on the shop-floor’!

  7. Nick Jones says:

    Marxist Literary Prof. Terry Eagleton, in the days before he lost his faith, was involved in a Marxist/Catholic journal (just watch those circulation figures soar!)called Slant, one of whose aims was to ‘materialise the body of Christ on the shop-floor’!

  8. Nick Jones says:

    Marxist Literary Prof. Terry Eagleton, in the days before he lost his faith, was involved in a Marxist/Catholic journal (just watch those circulation figures soar!)called Slant, one of whose aims was to ‘materialise the body of Christ on the shop-floor’!

  9. John H says:

    Nick: my sister has a very, very low opinion of trades unions, mainly from her experience of working in the sorting office in Leeds for a time. I suspect working for Royal Mail is enough to put anyone off trade unionism – from what I gathered it was pure seventies’ revivalism. No, make that fifties’ revivalism.
    Then she became a teacher for a time, which didn’t help.
    On the other hand, I’ve always been rather more pro-union, largely from working in professions in which unionism has historically been wholly absent – and where, boy, does it show. For example, unpaid overtime (for example) is completely taken for granted as what one does. OK, that’s partly just a “professional ethos”, and it would be perfectly revolting for me to complain about what I get paid when you compare it to average earnings so it’s not something that keeps me awake, but it has certainly helped me see the positive difference that unions can make over time.
    That said, through my work I have more sympathy for the smaller employers, who can find themselves on the receiving end of ruinous legal actions, often of dubious legal merit, supported financially by national unions who are really more powerful than the employer. I don’t hold that against the unions – they’re doing their best by their members, I suppose – but it is a difficult situation, and the only winners are my esteemed colleagues in the employment department next door.

  10. John H says:

    Nick: my sister has a very, very low opinion of trades unions, mainly from her experience of working in the sorting office in Leeds for a time. I suspect working for Royal Mail is enough to put anyone off trade unionism – from what I gathered it was pure seventies’ revivalism. No, make that fifties’ revivalism.
    Then she became a teacher for a time, which didn’t help.
    On the other hand, I’ve always been rather more pro-union, largely from working in professions in which unionism has historically been wholly absent – and where, boy, does it show. For example, unpaid overtime (for example) is completely taken for granted as what one does. OK, that’s partly just a “professional ethos”, and it would be perfectly revolting for me to complain about what I get paid when you compare it to average earnings so it’s not something that keeps me awake, but it has certainly helped me see the positive difference that unions can make over time.
    That said, through my work I have more sympathy for the smaller employers, who can find themselves on the receiving end of ruinous legal actions, often of dubious legal merit, supported financially by national unions who are really more powerful than the employer. I don’t hold that against the unions – they’re doing their best by their members, I suppose – but it is a difficult situation, and the only winners are my esteemed colleagues in the employment department next door.

  11. John H says:

    Nick: my sister has a very, very low opinion of trades unions, mainly from her experience of working in the sorting office in Leeds for a time. I suspect working for Royal Mail is enough to put anyone off trade unionism – from what I gathered it was pure seventies’ revivalism. No, make that fifties’ revivalism.
    Then she became a teacher for a time, which didn’t help.
    On the other hand, I’ve always been rather more pro-union, largely from working in professions in which unionism has historically been wholly absent – and where, boy, does it show. For example, unpaid overtime (for example) is completely taken for granted as what one does. OK, that’s partly just a “professional ethos”, and it would be perfectly revolting for me to complain about what I get paid when you compare it to average earnings so it’s not something that keeps me awake, but it has certainly helped me see the positive difference that unions can make over time.
    That said, through my work I have more sympathy for the smaller employers, who can find themselves on the receiving end of ruinous legal actions, often of dubious legal merit, supported financially by national unions who are really more powerful than the employer. I don’t hold that against the unions – they’re doing their best by their members, I suppose – but it is a difficult situation, and the only winners are my esteemed colleagues in the employment department next door.

  12. John H says:

    Nick: my sister has a very, very low opinion of trades unions, mainly from her experience of working in the sorting office in Leeds for a time. I suspect working for Royal Mail is enough to put anyone off trade unionism – from what I gathered it was pure seventies’ revivalism. No, make that fifties’ revivalism.
    Then she became a teacher for a time, which didn’t help.
    On the other hand, I’ve always been rather more pro-union, largely from working in professions in which unionism has historically been wholly absent – and where, boy, does it show. For example, unpaid overtime (for example) is completely taken for granted as what one does. OK, that’s partly just a “professional ethos”, and it would be perfectly revolting for me to complain about what I get paid when you compare it to average earnings so it’s not something that keeps me awake, but it has certainly helped me see the positive difference that unions can make over time.
    That said, through my work I have more sympathy for the smaller employers, who can find themselves on the receiving end of ruinous legal actions, often of dubious legal merit, supported financially by national unions who are really more powerful than the employer. I don’t hold that against the unions – they’re doing their best by their members, I suppose – but it is a difficult situation, and the only winners are my esteemed colleagues in the employment department next door.

  13. John H says:

    Marxist Literary Prof. Terry Eagleton, in the days before he lost his faith…
    Which faith did he lose, btw? πŸ˜‰
    ‘materialise the body of Christ on the shop-floor’
    I think that shows the inability of a certain type of serious-minded person to step back and see how something might read to the uninitiated (like Margaret Thatcher’s comment about Willie Whitelaw, and how “every Prime Minister needs a Willie”; or when she said she didn’t bother taking holidays, as she was “always on the job”).
    I sort of know what they mean by that, but it’s difficult not to think in terms of Star Trek, people being beamed down on to the surface of the planet, that sort of thing.

  14. John H says:

    Marxist Literary Prof. Terry Eagleton, in the days before he lost his faith…
    Which faith did he lose, btw? πŸ˜‰
    ‘materialise the body of Christ on the shop-floor’
    I think that shows the inability of a certain type of serious-minded person to step back and see how something might read to the uninitiated (like Margaret Thatcher’s comment about Willie Whitelaw, and how “every Prime Minister needs a Willie”; or when she said she didn’t bother taking holidays, as she was “always on the job”).
    I sort of know what they mean by that, but it’s difficult not to think in terms of Star Trek, people being beamed down on to the surface of the planet, that sort of thing.

  15. John H says:

    Marxist Literary Prof. Terry Eagleton, in the days before he lost his faith…
    Which faith did he lose, btw? πŸ˜‰
    ‘materialise the body of Christ on the shop-floor’
    I think that shows the inability of a certain type of serious-minded person to step back and see how something might read to the uninitiated (like Margaret Thatcher’s comment about Willie Whitelaw, and how “every Prime Minister needs a Willie”; or when she said she didn’t bother taking holidays, as she was “always on the job”).
    I sort of know what they mean by that, but it’s difficult not to think in terms of Star Trek, people being beamed down on to the surface of the planet, that sort of thing.

  16. John H says:

    Marxist Literary Prof. Terry Eagleton, in the days before he lost his faith…
    Which faith did he lose, btw? πŸ˜‰
    ‘materialise the body of Christ on the shop-floor’
    I think that shows the inability of a certain type of serious-minded person to step back and see how something might read to the uninitiated (like Margaret Thatcher’s comment about Willie Whitelaw, and how “every Prime Minister needs a Willie”; or when she said she didn’t bother taking holidays, as she was “always on the job”).
    I sort of know what they mean by that, but it’s difficult not to think in terms of Star Trek, people being beamed down on to the surface of the planet, that sort of thing.

  17. Atwood says:

    Maybe it’s a Britain-America thing (you know, “two people divided by a common language”) but when I hear
    the Labour Party represented the use of the ballot box to redress imbalance, and we should liberate labour and make capital democratically accountable, have more democracy and raise hope
    I am not at all inspired, it just reminds me of the banquet scene in That Hideous Strength where the speech makers all begin talking in gibberish. I just have no idea what he is talking about. What is “imbalance”? what is “capital”? Is that a fancy word for “boss”? So we elect our bosses? And what if they elect a boss a don’t like? How is that going to “give me hope”?

  18. Atwood says:

    Maybe it’s a Britain-America thing (you know, “two people divided by a common language”) but when I hear
    the Labour Party represented the use of the ballot box to redress imbalance, and we should liberate labour and make capital democratically accountable, have more democracy and raise hope
    I am not at all inspired, it just reminds me of the banquet scene in That Hideous Strength where the speech makers all begin talking in gibberish. I just have no idea what he is talking about. What is “imbalance”? what is “capital”? Is that a fancy word for “boss”? So we elect our bosses? And what if they elect a boss a don’t like? How is that going to “give me hope”?

  19. Atwood says:

    Maybe it’s a Britain-America thing (you know, “two people divided by a common language”) but when I hear
    the Labour Party represented the use of the ballot box to redress imbalance, and we should liberate labour and make capital democratically accountable, have more democracy and raise hope
    I am not at all inspired, it just reminds me of the banquet scene in That Hideous Strength where the speech makers all begin talking in gibberish. I just have no idea what he is talking about. What is “imbalance”? what is “capital”? Is that a fancy word for “boss”? So we elect our bosses? And what if they elect a boss a don’t like? How is that going to “give me hope”?

  20. Atwood says:

    Maybe it’s a Britain-America thing (you know, “two people divided by a common language”) but when I hear
    the Labour Party represented the use of the ballot box to redress imbalance, and we should liberate labour and make capital democratically accountable, have more democracy and raise hope
    I am not at all inspired, it just reminds me of the banquet scene in That Hideous Strength where the speech makers all begin talking in gibberish. I just have no idea what he is talking about. What is “imbalance”? what is “capital”? Is that a fancy word for “boss”? So we elect our bosses? And what if they elect a boss a don’t like? How is that going to “give me hope”?

  21. Chris Jones says:

    I’m with Chris on the Benn quote. When you unpack what “making capital democratically accountable” means (if you can do so at all), it boils down to legalized extortion and/or thievery. That is, “do things our way or we will drive you out of business by massive over-regulation or punitive taxation; or simply deprive you of your business by outright nationalization”. Not my idea of noble or inspiring.
    The problem with socialism is that it is false and dangerous. It’s telling – not out of character or surprising – that Benn admires Mao Tse Tung. The crimes of Mao (and of Lenin and Stalin) are not the result of “socialism gone bad”. They are the natural, if not inevitable, result of the ideology.

  22. Chris Jones says:

    I’m with Chris on the Benn quote. When you unpack what “making capital democratically accountable” means (if you can do so at all), it boils down to legalized extortion and/or thievery. That is, “do things our way or we will drive you out of business by massive over-regulation or punitive taxation; or simply deprive you of your business by outright nationalization”. Not my idea of noble or inspiring.
    The problem with socialism is that it is false and dangerous. It’s telling – not out of character or surprising – that Benn admires Mao Tse Tung. The crimes of Mao (and of Lenin and Stalin) are not the result of “socialism gone bad”. They are the natural, if not inevitable, result of the ideology.

  23. Chris Jones says:

    I’m with Chris on the Benn quote. When you unpack what “making capital democratically accountable” means (if you can do so at all), it boils down to legalized extortion and/or thievery. That is, “do things our way or we will drive you out of business by massive over-regulation or punitive taxation; or simply deprive you of your business by outright nationalization”. Not my idea of noble or inspiring.
    The problem with socialism is that it is false and dangerous. It’s telling – not out of character or surprising – that Benn admires Mao Tse Tung. The crimes of Mao (and of Lenin and Stalin) are not the result of “socialism gone bad”. They are the natural, if not inevitable, result of the ideology.

  24. Chris Jones says:

    I’m with Chris on the Benn quote. When you unpack what “making capital democratically accountable” means (if you can do so at all), it boils down to legalized extortion and/or thievery. That is, “do things our way or we will drive you out of business by massive over-regulation or punitive taxation; or simply deprive you of your business by outright nationalization”. Not my idea of noble or inspiring.
    The problem with socialism is that it is false and dangerous. It’s telling – not out of character or surprising – that Benn admires Mao Tse Tung. The crimes of Mao (and of Lenin and Stalin) are not the result of “socialism gone bad”. They are the natural, if not inevitable, result of the ideology.

  25. John H says:

    Thinking…
    Not ignoring your responses – am going away for the weekend so will be offline.

  26. John H says:

    Thinking…
    Not ignoring your responses – am going away for the weekend so will be offline.

  27. John H says:

    Thinking…
    Not ignoring your responses – am going away for the weekend so will be offline.

  28. John H says:

    Thinking…
    Not ignoring your responses – am going away for the weekend so will be offline.

  29. Just use your “Jesus is Lord; therefore Tony Benn isn’t” principle and it all works out, eh? πŸ˜‰

  30. Just use your “Jesus is Lord; therefore Tony Benn isn’t” principle and it all works out, eh? πŸ˜‰

  31. Just use your “Jesus is Lord; therefore Tony Benn isn’t” principle and it all works out, eh? πŸ˜‰

  32. Just use your “Jesus is Lord; therefore Tony Benn isn’t” principle and it all works out, eh? πŸ˜‰

  33. D.S. Ketelby says:

    Socialism as legalised extortion and thievery, and as ‘naturally’ resulting in the crimes of Lenin and Mao?
    Pull the other one (as we say in Blighty): respectfully suggest you read E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the Working Class in England to learn more of British socialism’s highly moral, Methodistic core… and Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy if you think that the people socialism ‘extorts’ from got their money honestly.
    States have taxed people ever since there have been states… so if you’re going to ride Thoreau-style small-government invective, at least ride that train to the terminus; otherwise you risk being one of those dreadful gutless suburban small-government libertarians one sometimes reads about… “anarchists who want police protection from their slaves”.
    So think on.

  34. D.S. Ketelby says:

    Socialism as legalised extortion and thievery, and as ‘naturally’ resulting in the crimes of Lenin and Mao?
    Pull the other one (as we say in Blighty): respectfully suggest you read E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the Working Class in England to learn more of British socialism’s highly moral, Methodistic core… and Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy if you think that the people socialism ‘extorts’ from got their money honestly.
    States have taxed people ever since there have been states… so if you’re going to ride Thoreau-style small-government invective, at least ride that train to the terminus; otherwise you risk being one of those dreadful gutless suburban small-government libertarians one sometimes reads about… “anarchists who want police protection from their slaves”.
    So think on.

  35. D.S. Ketelby says:

    Socialism as legalised extortion and thievery, and as ‘naturally’ resulting in the crimes of Lenin and Mao?
    Pull the other one (as we say in Blighty): respectfully suggest you read E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the Working Class in England to learn more of British socialism’s highly moral, Methodistic core… and Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy if you think that the people socialism ‘extorts’ from got their money honestly.
    States have taxed people ever since there have been states… so if you’re going to ride Thoreau-style small-government invective, at least ride that train to the terminus; otherwise you risk being one of those dreadful gutless suburban small-government libertarians one sometimes reads about… “anarchists who want police protection from their slaves”.
    So think on.

  36. D.S. Ketelby says:

    Socialism as legalised extortion and thievery, and as ‘naturally’ resulting in the crimes of Lenin and Mao?
    Pull the other one (as we say in Blighty): respectfully suggest you read E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the Working Class in England to learn more of British socialism’s highly moral, Methodistic core… and Dos Passos’s U.S.A. trilogy if you think that the people socialism ‘extorts’ from got their money honestly.
    States have taxed people ever since there have been states… so if you’re going to ride Thoreau-style small-government invective, at least ride that train to the terminus; otherwise you risk being one of those dreadful gutless suburban small-government libertarians one sometimes reads about… “anarchists who want police protection from their slaves”.
    So think on.

  37. John H says:

    “More Methodism than Marx”, and all that.
    suggest you read E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the Working Class in England
    May pick that up from the library – though it’s actually called The Making of the English Working Class – think you may be conflating it with Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England (currently Amazon’s “perfect partner” for Thompson’s book – which must be an example of capitalists selling people enough rope to hang them with :-)).
    But then, what has happened to the working class described (as I gather from the reviews) by Thompson as working a 12-14 hour day and then reading in the evening for self-education? It reminds me of the rather poignant moment in Orwell’s The Lion and the Unicorn when he talks enthusiastically about how much working people were reading at that time he was writing. That whole world of the Left Book Club and so on has been swept away by the bread and circuses of Premiership football, Big Brother (as in the sub-porn post-pub TV programme, rather than Orwell’s version) and Heat magazine.
    Interesting to ponder the parallels – and maybe common causes? – of the loss of political consciousness and of religious belief in Britain over the past 30 years or so, particularly among young people.

  38. John H says:

    “More Methodism than Marx”, and all that.
    suggest you read E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the Working Class in England
    May pick that up from the library – though it’s actually called The Making of the English Working Class – think you may be conflating it with Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England (currently Amazon’s “perfect partner” for Thompson’s book – which must be an example of capitalists selling people enough rope to hang them with :-)).
    But then, what has happened to the working class described (as I gather from the reviews) by Thompson as working a 12-14 hour day and then reading in the evening for self-education? It reminds me of the rather poignant moment in Orwell’s The Lion and the Unicorn when he talks enthusiastically about how much working people were reading at that time he was writing. That whole world of the Left Book Club and so on has been swept away by the bread and circuses of Premiership football, Big Brother (as in the sub-porn post-pub TV programme, rather than Orwell’s version) and Heat magazine.
    Interesting to ponder the parallels – and maybe common causes? – of the loss of political consciousness and of religious belief in Britain over the past 30 years or so, particularly among young people.

  39. John H says:

    “More Methodism than Marx”, and all that.
    suggest you read E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the Working Class in England
    May pick that up from the library – though it’s actually called The Making of the English Working Class – think you may be conflating it with Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England (currently Amazon’s “perfect partner” for Thompson’s book – which must be an example of capitalists selling people enough rope to hang them with :-)).
    But then, what has happened to the working class described (as I gather from the reviews) by Thompson as working a 12-14 hour day and then reading in the evening for self-education? It reminds me of the rather poignant moment in Orwell’s The Lion and the Unicorn when he talks enthusiastically about how much working people were reading at that time he was writing. That whole world of the Left Book Club and so on has been swept away by the bread and circuses of Premiership football, Big Brother (as in the sub-porn post-pub TV programme, rather than Orwell’s version) and Heat magazine.
    Interesting to ponder the parallels – and maybe common causes? – of the loss of political consciousness and of religious belief in Britain over the past 30 years or so, particularly among young people.

  40. John H says:

    “More Methodism than Marx”, and all that.
    suggest you read E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the Working Class in England
    May pick that up from the library – though it’s actually called The Making of the English Working Class – think you may be conflating it with Engels’ Condition of the Working Class in England (currently Amazon’s “perfect partner” for Thompson’s book – which must be an example of capitalists selling people enough rope to hang them with :-)).
    But then, what has happened to the working class described (as I gather from the reviews) by Thompson as working a 12-14 hour day and then reading in the evening for self-education? It reminds me of the rather poignant moment in Orwell’s The Lion and the Unicorn when he talks enthusiastically about how much working people were reading at that time he was writing. That whole world of the Left Book Club and so on has been swept away by the bread and circuses of Premiership football, Big Brother (as in the sub-porn post-pub TV programme, rather than Orwell’s version) and Heat magazine.
    Interesting to ponder the parallels – and maybe common causes? – of the loss of political consciousness and of religious belief in Britain over the past 30 years or so, particularly among young people.

  41. Chris Jones says:

    respectfully suggest you read E.P. Thompson
    I’ll see if I can locate a copy.
    In the meantime I suggest you read Igor Shafarevich’s Socialism in our Past and Future.
    I’ll admit that I’m not all that knowledgable about specifically British socialism. Perhaps it is entirely distinct from Marxism/Leninism. But it seems to me that good British socialists like Benn have not tried too terribly hard to distance themselves from murderous tyrants such as Lenin and Mao. So if I have confused two entirely distinct varieties of socialism, I think I can be forgiven.

  42. Chris Jones says:

    respectfully suggest you read E.P. Thompson
    I’ll see if I can locate a copy.
    In the meantime I suggest you read Igor Shafarevich’s Socialism in our Past and Future.
    I’ll admit that I’m not all that knowledgable about specifically British socialism. Perhaps it is entirely distinct from Marxism/Leninism. But it seems to me that good British socialists like Benn have not tried too terribly hard to distance themselves from murderous tyrants such as Lenin and Mao. So if I have confused two entirely distinct varieties of socialism, I think I can be forgiven.

  43. Chris Jones says:

    respectfully suggest you read E.P. Thompson
    I’ll see if I can locate a copy.
    In the meantime I suggest you read Igor Shafarevich’s Socialism in our Past and Future.
    I’ll admit that I’m not all that knowledgable about specifically British socialism. Perhaps it is entirely distinct from Marxism/Leninism. But it seems to me that good British socialists like Benn have not tried too terribly hard to distance themselves from murderous tyrants such as Lenin and Mao. So if I have confused two entirely distinct varieties of socialism, I think I can be forgiven.

  44. Chris Jones says:

    respectfully suggest you read E.P. Thompson
    I’ll see if I can locate a copy.
    In the meantime I suggest you read Igor Shafarevich’s Socialism in our Past and Future.
    I’ll admit that I’m not all that knowledgable about specifically British socialism. Perhaps it is entirely distinct from Marxism/Leninism. But it seems to me that good British socialists like Benn have not tried too terribly hard to distance themselves from murderous tyrants such as Lenin and Mao. So if I have confused two entirely distinct varieties of socialism, I think I can be forgiven.

  45. John H says:

    Chris: as DS Ketelby points out, the Labour Party in the UK represents a democratic socialist tradition that certainly is distinct in both theory and practice from Maoism or Leninism/Stalinism.
    That’s not to excuse for one moment the shockingly complacent attitude shown over the years by many supposedly democratic socialists towards the likes of Mao, Stalin or (especially) Lenin. You know the sort of thing: the gradual progression from, “This is an imperialist-capitalist slander against Comrade Stalin!”, to “Clearly mistakes have been made, but the claims as a whole are grossly exaggerated”, to “Well, it is all very regrettable, but you have to understand the difficult circumstances under which he was operating”, to … silence.
    As regards Mao, I’d love to hear what Tony Benn thinks of Jung Chang’s new biography of the murderous old tyrant. Shame that he probably doesn’t read this blog – though perhaps if he’s googling for his own name then he’ll come across it at some point. πŸ˜‰

  46. John H says:

    Chris: as DS Ketelby points out, the Labour Party in the UK represents a democratic socialist tradition that certainly is distinct in both theory and practice from Maoism or Leninism/Stalinism.
    That’s not to excuse for one moment the shockingly complacent attitude shown over the years by many supposedly democratic socialists towards the likes of Mao, Stalin or (especially) Lenin. You know the sort of thing: the gradual progression from, “This is an imperialist-capitalist slander against Comrade Stalin!”, to “Clearly mistakes have been made, but the claims as a whole are grossly exaggerated”, to “Well, it is all very regrettable, but you have to understand the difficult circumstances under which he was operating”, to … silence.
    As regards Mao, I’d love to hear what Tony Benn thinks of Jung Chang’s new biography of the murderous old tyrant. Shame that he probably doesn’t read this blog – though perhaps if he’s googling for his own name then he’ll come across it at some point. πŸ˜‰

  47. John H says:

    Chris: as DS Ketelby points out, the Labour Party in the UK represents a democratic socialist tradition that certainly is distinct in both theory and practice from Maoism or Leninism/Stalinism.
    That’s not to excuse for one moment the shockingly complacent attitude shown over the years by many supposedly democratic socialists towards the likes of Mao, Stalin or (especially) Lenin. You know the sort of thing: the gradual progression from, “This is an imperialist-capitalist slander against Comrade Stalin!”, to “Clearly mistakes have been made, but the claims as a whole are grossly exaggerated”, to “Well, it is all very regrettable, but you have to understand the difficult circumstances under which he was operating”, to … silence.
    As regards Mao, I’d love to hear what Tony Benn thinks of Jung Chang’s new biography of the murderous old tyrant. Shame that he probably doesn’t read this blog – though perhaps if he’s googling for his own name then he’ll come across it at some point. πŸ˜‰

  48. John H says:

    Chris: as DS Ketelby points out, the Labour Party in the UK represents a democratic socialist tradition that certainly is distinct in both theory and practice from Maoism or Leninism/Stalinism.
    That’s not to excuse for one moment the shockingly complacent attitude shown over the years by many supposedly democratic socialists towards the likes of Mao, Stalin or (especially) Lenin. You know the sort of thing: the gradual progression from, “This is an imperialist-capitalist slander against Comrade Stalin!”, to “Clearly mistakes have been made, but the claims as a whole are grossly exaggerated”, to “Well, it is all very regrettable, but you have to understand the difficult circumstances under which he was operating”, to … silence.
    As regards Mao, I’d love to hear what Tony Benn thinks of Jung Chang’s new biography of the murderous old tyrant. Shame that he probably doesn’t read this blog – though perhaps if he’s googling for his own name then he’ll come across it at some point. πŸ˜‰

  49. CPA says:

    There’s another interesting trend blurring the line between socialism and Communism: the virtual disappearance of the latter term in academic research on the former Soviet block.
    It appears to have started with residents of those countries, in which their system was always called socialist, with Communism as the distant, unattainable ideal (the Soviet Union wasn’t good enough to be Communism, it was stuck with measly “socialism.” Once Soviet-block people began talking to Western academics after 1989, they all settled on “socialism”–the first because it was what they were used to, the academics because ever since 1955 or so, they’d come to hate the word Communist, because it seemed somehow so blunt, so Cold Warrior-ish, so un-nuanceable. (One can compromise with socialists, even with Marxists, but with Communists?)
    When my grad students write essays about MOngolia, I always gently suggest, “socialism is what you have in Sweden, Communism what you have in the Soviet Union.” But they never listen.
    So John, when your kids go off to university, I have a feeling Lenin, Attlee, Stalin, Benn, and Mao are going to be one indistinguishable soup to them.

  50. CPA says:

    There’s another interesting trend blurring the line between socialism and Communism: the virtual disappearance of the latter term in academic research on the former Soviet block.
    It appears to have started with residents of those countries, in which their system was always called socialist, with Communism as the distant, unattainable ideal (the Soviet Union wasn’t good enough to be Communism, it was stuck with measly “socialism.” Once Soviet-block people began talking to Western academics after 1989, they all settled on “socialism”–the first because it was what they were used to, the academics because ever since 1955 or so, they’d come to hate the word Communist, because it seemed somehow so blunt, so Cold Warrior-ish, so un-nuanceable. (One can compromise with socialists, even with Marxists, but with Communists?)
    When my grad students write essays about MOngolia, I always gently suggest, “socialism is what you have in Sweden, Communism what you have in the Soviet Union.” But they never listen.
    So John, when your kids go off to university, I have a feeling Lenin, Attlee, Stalin, Benn, and Mao are going to be one indistinguishable soup to them.

  51. CPA says:

    There’s another interesting trend blurring the line between socialism and Communism: the virtual disappearance of the latter term in academic research on the former Soviet block.
    It appears to have started with residents of those countries, in which their system was always called socialist, with Communism as the distant, unattainable ideal (the Soviet Union wasn’t good enough to be Communism, it was stuck with measly “socialism.” Once Soviet-block people began talking to Western academics after 1989, they all settled on “socialism”–the first because it was what they were used to, the academics because ever since 1955 or so, they’d come to hate the word Communist, because it seemed somehow so blunt, so Cold Warrior-ish, so un-nuanceable. (One can compromise with socialists, even with Marxists, but with Communists?)
    When my grad students write essays about MOngolia, I always gently suggest, “socialism is what you have in Sweden, Communism what you have in the Soviet Union.” But they never listen.
    So John, when your kids go off to university, I have a feeling Lenin, Attlee, Stalin, Benn, and Mao are going to be one indistinguishable soup to them.

  52. CPA says:

    There’s another interesting trend blurring the line between socialism and Communism: the virtual disappearance of the latter term in academic research on the former Soviet block.
    It appears to have started with residents of those countries, in which their system was always called socialist, with Communism as the distant, unattainable ideal (the Soviet Union wasn’t good enough to be Communism, it was stuck with measly “socialism.” Once Soviet-block people began talking to Western academics after 1989, they all settled on “socialism”–the first because it was what they were used to, the academics because ever since 1955 or so, they’d come to hate the word Communist, because it seemed somehow so blunt, so Cold Warrior-ish, so un-nuanceable. (One can compromise with socialists, even with Marxists, but with Communists?)
    When my grad students write essays about MOngolia, I always gently suggest, “socialism is what you have in Sweden, Communism what you have in the Soviet Union.” But they never listen.
    So John, when your kids go off to university, I have a feeling Lenin, Attlee, Stalin, Benn, and Mao are going to be one indistinguishable soup to them.

  53. CPA says:

    Cf. about EP Thompson and Engels, I don’t know the details, but I know that a large percentage, perhaps the majority, of historians feel that from the very beginning living standards for the urban proletariat were higher than those of the rural proletariat from which they came, and that industrial capitalism from the outset involved a significant jump in incomes for workers. Certainly that was the case in industrial capitalism in pre-Communist China. The poverty in the cities was appalling and obvious, the poverty in the countryside was yet more appalling, but not as obvious.

  54. CPA says:

    Cf. about EP Thompson and Engels, I don’t know the details, but I know that a large percentage, perhaps the majority, of historians feel that from the very beginning living standards for the urban proletariat were higher than those of the rural proletariat from which they came, and that industrial capitalism from the outset involved a significant jump in incomes for workers. Certainly that was the case in industrial capitalism in pre-Communist China. The poverty in the cities was appalling and obvious, the poverty in the countryside was yet more appalling, but not as obvious.

  55. CPA says:

    Cf. about EP Thompson and Engels, I don’t know the details, but I know that a large percentage, perhaps the majority, of historians feel that from the very beginning living standards for the urban proletariat were higher than those of the rural proletariat from which they came, and that industrial capitalism from the outset involved a significant jump in incomes for workers. Certainly that was the case in industrial capitalism in pre-Communist China. The poverty in the cities was appalling and obvious, the poverty in the countryside was yet more appalling, but not as obvious.

  56. CPA says:

    Cf. about EP Thompson and Engels, I don’t know the details, but I know that a large percentage, perhaps the majority, of historians feel that from the very beginning living standards for the urban proletariat were higher than those of the rural proletariat from which they came, and that industrial capitalism from the outset involved a significant jump in incomes for workers. Certainly that was the case in industrial capitalism in pre-Communist China. The poverty in the cities was appalling and obvious, the poverty in the countryside was yet more appalling, but not as obvious.

  57. John H says:

    Well, people have said about socialism and Communism much the same as what Chesterton said about Christianity: “It hasn’t failed; it’s never been tried“.
    So John, when your kids go off to university, I have a feeling Lenin, Attlee, Stalin, Benn, and Mao are going to be one indistinguishable soup to them.
    You may be right, but this just shows how important democracy is as the way to start to distinguish the ingredients in that soup.
    The moment someone starts excusing Mao’s tyranny on the grounds of his socialism, that is a very serious error. “Undemocractic socialism” ought to be something approaching a contradiction in terms.
    And anyway, while we’re rightly criticising people like Tony Benn for making excuses for Mao, we shouldn’t forget that, just as thirty years ago there there were plenty of people prepared to excuse China’s tyranny on the basis of its socialism, so today there are equally as many people prepared to excuse its tyranny on the grounds of its capitalism.
    And funnily enough, the arguments used are precisely the same in each case: “Of course, once China completes its transformation to a truly socialist/capitalist* society, then democratic freedoms for its people will naturally follow. But we can’t expect them to run before they can walk.”
    * Delete as applicable.

  58. John H says:

    Well, people have said about socialism and Communism much the same as what Chesterton said about Christianity: “It hasn’t failed; it’s never been tried“.
    So John, when your kids go off to university, I have a feeling Lenin, Attlee, Stalin, Benn, and Mao are going to be one indistinguishable soup to them.
    You may be right, but this just shows how important democracy is as the way to start to distinguish the ingredients in that soup.
    The moment someone starts excusing Mao’s tyranny on the grounds of his socialism, that is a very serious error. “Undemocractic socialism” ought to be something approaching a contradiction in terms.
    And anyway, while we’re rightly criticising people like Tony Benn for making excuses for Mao, we shouldn’t forget that, just as thirty years ago there there were plenty of people prepared to excuse China’s tyranny on the basis of its socialism, so today there are equally as many people prepared to excuse its tyranny on the grounds of its capitalism.
    And funnily enough, the arguments used are precisely the same in each case: “Of course, once China completes its transformation to a truly socialist/capitalist* society, then democratic freedoms for its people will naturally follow. But we can’t expect them to run before they can walk.”
    * Delete as applicable.

  59. John H says:

    Well, people have said about socialism and Communism much the same as what Chesterton said about Christianity: “It hasn’t failed; it’s never been tried“.
    So John, when your kids go off to university, I have a feeling Lenin, Attlee, Stalin, Benn, and Mao are going to be one indistinguishable soup to them.
    You may be right, but this just shows how important democracy is as the way to start to distinguish the ingredients in that soup.
    The moment someone starts excusing Mao’s tyranny on the grounds of his socialism, that is a very serious error. “Undemocractic socialism” ought to be something approaching a contradiction in terms.
    And anyway, while we’re rightly criticising people like Tony Benn for making excuses for Mao, we shouldn’t forget that, just as thirty years ago there there were plenty of people prepared to excuse China’s tyranny on the basis of its socialism, so today there are equally as many people prepared to excuse its tyranny on the grounds of its capitalism.
    And funnily enough, the arguments used are precisely the same in each case: “Of course, once China completes its transformation to a truly socialist/capitalist* society, then democratic freedoms for its people will naturally follow. But we can’t expect them to run before they can walk.”
    * Delete as applicable.

  60. John H says:

    Well, people have said about socialism and Communism much the same as what Chesterton said about Christianity: “It hasn’t failed; it’s never been tried“.
    So John, when your kids go off to university, I have a feeling Lenin, Attlee, Stalin, Benn, and Mao are going to be one indistinguishable soup to them.
    You may be right, but this just shows how important democracy is as the way to start to distinguish the ingredients in that soup.
    The moment someone starts excusing Mao’s tyranny on the grounds of his socialism, that is a very serious error. “Undemocractic socialism” ought to be something approaching a contradiction in terms.
    And anyway, while we’re rightly criticising people like Tony Benn for making excuses for Mao, we shouldn’t forget that, just as thirty years ago there there were plenty of people prepared to excuse China’s tyranny on the basis of its socialism, so today there are equally as many people prepared to excuse its tyranny on the grounds of its capitalism.
    And funnily enough, the arguments used are precisely the same in each case: “Of course, once China completes its transformation to a truly socialist/capitalist* society, then democratic freedoms for its people will naturally follow. But we can’t expect them to run before they can walk.”
    * Delete as applicable.

  61. Chris Jones says:

    this just shows how important democracy is as the way to start to distinguish the ingredients in that soup.
    Really? Why?
    What is “democracy”?
    And BTW, I think that what Chesterton said is stupid. If Christianity has “never been tried”, where did all those saints come from?

  62. Chris Jones says:

    this just shows how important democracy is as the way to start to distinguish the ingredients in that soup.
    Really? Why?
    What is “democracy”?
    And BTW, I think that what Chesterton said is stupid. If Christianity has “never been tried”, where did all those saints come from?

  63. Chris Jones says:

    this just shows how important democracy is as the way to start to distinguish the ingredients in that soup.
    Really? Why?
    What is “democracy”?
    And BTW, I think that what Chesterton said is stupid. If Christianity has “never been tried”, where did all those saints come from?

  64. Chris Jones says:

    this just shows how important democracy is as the way to start to distinguish the ingredients in that soup.
    Really? Why?
    What is “democracy”?
    And BTW, I think that what Chesterton said is stupid. If Christianity has “never been tried”, where did all those saints come from?

  65. Chris Jones says:

    Just to be clear:
    Socialism is defective not in its application, but in its principles. There is nothing inherently unjust in private ownership of the means of production. But state ownership of the means of production is inconsistent with the purpose of the state. The purpose of the state is the protection of the citizenry from foreign enemies and domestic criminals, and the state’s monopoly on the licit use of violence should be directed only to that purpose. The misapplication of the power of the state to the performance of economic activity, rather than to the even-handed administration of justice, is just that: a misapplication, and an inherently unjust one.
    This is true whether the state in question is a democracy, an authoritarian dictatorship, a monarchy, or whatever. “Democracy” as such has nothing to do with it.
    Check your Bible as to what the purpose of “the powers that be” is, and why we owe them our obedience. You will find that the authority of the state and our duty of obedience owes nothing to “the consent of the governed”, no matter what Locke or Jefferson may have said.

  66. Chris Jones says:

    Just to be clear:
    Socialism is defective not in its application, but in its principles. There is nothing inherently unjust in private ownership of the means of production. But state ownership of the means of production is inconsistent with the purpose of the state. The purpose of the state is the protection of the citizenry from foreign enemies and domestic criminals, and the state’s monopoly on the licit use of violence should be directed only to that purpose. The misapplication of the power of the state to the performance of economic activity, rather than to the even-handed administration of justice, is just that: a misapplication, and an inherently unjust one.
    This is true whether the state in question is a democracy, an authoritarian dictatorship, a monarchy, or whatever. “Democracy” as such has nothing to do with it.
    Check your Bible as to what the purpose of “the powers that be” is, and why we owe them our obedience. You will find that the authority of the state and our duty of obedience owes nothing to “the consent of the governed”, no matter what Locke or Jefferson may have said.

  67. Chris Jones says:

    Just to be clear:
    Socialism is defective not in its application, but in its principles. There is nothing inherently unjust in private ownership of the means of production. But state ownership of the means of production is inconsistent with the purpose of the state. The purpose of the state is the protection of the citizenry from foreign enemies and domestic criminals, and the state’s monopoly on the licit use of violence should be directed only to that purpose. The misapplication of the power of the state to the performance of economic activity, rather than to the even-handed administration of justice, is just that: a misapplication, and an inherently unjust one.
    This is true whether the state in question is a democracy, an authoritarian dictatorship, a monarchy, or whatever. “Democracy” as such has nothing to do with it.
    Check your Bible as to what the purpose of “the powers that be” is, and why we owe them our obedience. You will find that the authority of the state and our duty of obedience owes nothing to “the consent of the governed”, no matter what Locke or Jefferson may have said.

  68. Chris Jones says:

    Just to be clear:
    Socialism is defective not in its application, but in its principles. There is nothing inherently unjust in private ownership of the means of production. But state ownership of the means of production is inconsistent with the purpose of the state. The purpose of the state is the protection of the citizenry from foreign enemies and domestic criminals, and the state’s monopoly on the licit use of violence should be directed only to that purpose. The misapplication of the power of the state to the performance of economic activity, rather than to the even-handed administration of justice, is just that: a misapplication, and an inherently unjust one.
    This is true whether the state in question is a democracy, an authoritarian dictatorship, a monarchy, or whatever. “Democracy” as such has nothing to do with it.
    Check your Bible as to what the purpose of “the powers that be” is, and why we owe them our obedience. You will find that the authority of the state and our duty of obedience owes nothing to “the consent of the governed”, no matter what Locke or Jefferson may have said.

  69. CPA says:

    Very well said, Chris.
    Taxes or the use of government power (eminent domain) to provide for services which the government must or may deliver are completely legitimate, however high.
    Taxes or the use of government power to eliminate whole branches of private property (such as private property in mines, or in railways, or telecommunications, etc.) is unjust in aim, even when conducted lawfully, by the common consent of the community expressed through elections, and with compensation.
    That said almost every modern government has done a little or a lot of the second kind. It’s not a justification for tax evasion or rebellion, but it still needs to be called, as Chris calls it, an usurpation of functions the govenrment really should not have, and an injustice done to the property holders, even if they get enough cash or stocks in return to feel comfortable.
    (I think Chris would agree that the common idea that any governmental action that is unjust is therefore an excuse for citizens to resist is a fundamental error.)

  70. CPA says:

    Very well said, Chris.
    Taxes or the use of government power (eminent domain) to provide for services which the government must or may deliver are completely legitimate, however high.
    Taxes or the use of government power to eliminate whole branches of private property (such as private property in mines, or in railways, or telecommunications, etc.) is unjust in aim, even when conducted lawfully, by the common consent of the community expressed through elections, and with compensation.
    That said almost every modern government has done a little or a lot of the second kind. It’s not a justification for tax evasion or rebellion, but it still needs to be called, as Chris calls it, an usurpation of functions the govenrment really should not have, and an injustice done to the property holders, even if they get enough cash or stocks in return to feel comfortable.
    (I think Chris would agree that the common idea that any governmental action that is unjust is therefore an excuse for citizens to resist is a fundamental error.)

  71. CPA says:

    Very well said, Chris.
    Taxes or the use of government power (eminent domain) to provide for services which the government must or may deliver are completely legitimate, however high.
    Taxes or the use of government power to eliminate whole branches of private property (such as private property in mines, or in railways, or telecommunications, etc.) is unjust in aim, even when conducted lawfully, by the common consent of the community expressed through elections, and with compensation.
    That said almost every modern government has done a little or a lot of the second kind. It’s not a justification for tax evasion or rebellion, but it still needs to be called, as Chris calls it, an usurpation of functions the govenrment really should not have, and an injustice done to the property holders, even if they get enough cash or stocks in return to feel comfortable.
    (I think Chris would agree that the common idea that any governmental action that is unjust is therefore an excuse for citizens to resist is a fundamental error.)

  72. CPA says:

    Very well said, Chris.
    Taxes or the use of government power (eminent domain) to provide for services which the government must or may deliver are completely legitimate, however high.
    Taxes or the use of government power to eliminate whole branches of private property (such as private property in mines, or in railways, or telecommunications, etc.) is unjust in aim, even when conducted lawfully, by the common consent of the community expressed through elections, and with compensation.
    That said almost every modern government has done a little or a lot of the second kind. It’s not a justification for tax evasion or rebellion, but it still needs to be called, as Chris calls it, an usurpation of functions the govenrment really should not have, and an injustice done to the property holders, even if they get enough cash or stocks in return to feel comfortable.
    (I think Chris would agree that the common idea that any governmental action that is unjust is therefore an excuse for citizens to resist is a fundamental error.)

  73. John H says:

    Well, it has to be said the two of you have alighted upon the point which is where I still part company from socialism – the coercion involved in the state seizure of property, though I’m not sure I’m necessarily outraged in principle by properly-compensated nationalisation.
    Plus, property rights do not exist in a vacuum. You rightly raise the question of whether the state is within its rights to take property off people. But equally it is legitimate to ask whether the state should be underwriting all forms of property ownership.
    Modern real property rights seem some way removed from the provisions relating to land ownership as found in the Bible, or even in previous eras within Western society (feudalism, say). Then there are other property rights such as intellectual property rights that have been newly created, by governments, largely within the past 500 years.
    Now, if governments abolished patent law (not something I advocate, though significant reform is clearly needed), would this be illegitimate confiscation/cancellation of private assets, or would it be the restoration to the populace of rights that have been taken away from us by unjustifiable laws imposed by government, laws that have nothing to do with “the protection of the citizenry from foreign enemies and domestic criminals”?
    A similar argument could be used in respect of freehold in land, which has become a much more absolute right in recent centuries than it was in the feudal system, say.

  74. John H says:

    Well, it has to be said the two of you have alighted upon the point which is where I still part company from socialism – the coercion involved in the state seizure of property, though I’m not sure I’m necessarily outraged in principle by properly-compensated nationalisation.
    Plus, property rights do not exist in a vacuum. You rightly raise the question of whether the state is within its rights to take property off people. But equally it is legitimate to ask whether the state should be underwriting all forms of property ownership.
    Modern real property rights seem some way removed from the provisions relating to land ownership as found in the Bible, or even in previous eras within Western society (feudalism, say). Then there are other property rights such as intellectual property rights that have been newly created, by governments, largely within the past 500 years.
    Now, if governments abolished patent law (not something I advocate, though significant reform is clearly needed), would this be illegitimate confiscation/cancellation of private assets, or would it be the restoration to the populace of rights that have been taken away from us by unjustifiable laws imposed by government, laws that have nothing to do with “the protection of the citizenry from foreign enemies and domestic criminals”?
    A similar argument could be used in respect of freehold in land, which has become a much more absolute right in recent centuries than it was in the feudal system, say.

  75. John H says:

    Well, it has to be said the two of you have alighted upon the point which is where I still part company from socialism – the coercion involved in the state seizure of property, though I’m not sure I’m necessarily outraged in principle by properly-compensated nationalisation.
    Plus, property rights do not exist in a vacuum. You rightly raise the question of whether the state is within its rights to take property off people. But equally it is legitimate to ask whether the state should be underwriting all forms of property ownership.
    Modern real property rights seem some way removed from the provisions relating to land ownership as found in the Bible, or even in previous eras within Western society (feudalism, say). Then there are other property rights such as intellectual property rights that have been newly created, by governments, largely within the past 500 years.
    Now, if governments abolished patent law (not something I advocate, though significant reform is clearly needed), would this be illegitimate confiscation/cancellation of private assets, or would it be the restoration to the populace of rights that have been taken away from us by unjustifiable laws imposed by government, laws that have nothing to do with “the protection of the citizenry from foreign enemies and domestic criminals”?
    A similar argument could be used in respect of freehold in land, which has become a much more absolute right in recent centuries than it was in the feudal system, say.

  76. John H says:

    Well, it has to be said the two of you have alighted upon the point which is where I still part company from socialism – the coercion involved in the state seizure of property, though I’m not sure I’m necessarily outraged in principle by properly-compensated nationalisation.
    Plus, property rights do not exist in a vacuum. You rightly raise the question of whether the state is within its rights to take property off people. But equally it is legitimate to ask whether the state should be underwriting all forms of property ownership.
    Modern real property rights seem some way removed from the provisions relating to land ownership as found in the Bible, or even in previous eras within Western society (feudalism, say). Then there are other property rights such as intellectual property rights that have been newly created, by governments, largely within the past 500 years.
    Now, if governments abolished patent law (not something I advocate, though significant reform is clearly needed), would this be illegitimate confiscation/cancellation of private assets, or would it be the restoration to the populace of rights that have been taken away from us by unjustifiable laws imposed by government, laws that have nothing to do with “the protection of the citizenry from foreign enemies and domestic criminals”?
    A similar argument could be used in respect of freehold in land, which has become a much more absolute right in recent centuries than it was in the feudal system, say.

  77. Chris Jones says:

    I think Chris would agree … is a fundamental error.
    Indeed I do agree.
    I believe that there is, in principle, such a thing as a just rebellion. But not every injustice perpetrated by a state is grounds for such a rebellion. The bar for finding a government so unjust as to justify rebellion is a high one.
    But to say that there can never be a just rebellion would be – what’s the word I’m looking for? – un-American.

  78. Chris Jones says:

    I think Chris would agree … is a fundamental error.
    Indeed I do agree.
    I believe that there is, in principle, such a thing as a just rebellion. But not every injustice perpetrated by a state is grounds for such a rebellion. The bar for finding a government so unjust as to justify rebellion is a high one.
    But to say that there can never be a just rebellion would be – what’s the word I’m looking for? – un-American.

  79. Chris Jones says:

    I think Chris would agree … is a fundamental error.
    Indeed I do agree.
    I believe that there is, in principle, such a thing as a just rebellion. But not every injustice perpetrated by a state is grounds for such a rebellion. The bar for finding a government so unjust as to justify rebellion is a high one.
    But to say that there can never be a just rebellion would be – what’s the word I’m looking for? – un-American.

  80. Chris Jones says:

    I think Chris would agree … is a fundamental error.
    Indeed I do agree.
    I believe that there is, in principle, such a thing as a just rebellion. But not every injustice perpetrated by a state is grounds for such a rebellion. The bar for finding a government so unjust as to justify rebellion is a high one.
    But to say that there can never be a just rebellion would be – what’s the word I’m looking for? – un-American.

  81. CPA says:

    John, come on, don’t play dumb. We all know what socialism means on the social-democratic model and the Communist model. In either case, you have state ownership of transportation, communications, mining, and some key manufacturing firms (“the commanding heights”), achieved through consensus and compensation.
    In the Communism you add to that ownership of all banks, all manufacturing, all retail and wholesale trade, state monopoly on foreign trade, and finally, collectivization of farming. All this is achieved by a minority part, with no compensation, and deliberately encouraged class violence, especially in the countryside.
    Patent law doesn’t figure. It’s a non-issue. Ditto for intellectual property.
    And the bloodiest part of it is always the elimination of family farms. Private freehold farms may not be Biblical, but they are the part of private ownership any socialist/Communist government on earth is going to have to use state terror, exile, killings, and privatized violence (tenants/squatters killing landlords), to get rid of. Which is why only Communists even try it.

  82. CPA says:

    John, come on, don’t play dumb. We all know what socialism means on the social-democratic model and the Communist model. In either case, you have state ownership of transportation, communications, mining, and some key manufacturing firms (“the commanding heights”), achieved through consensus and compensation.
    In the Communism you add to that ownership of all banks, all manufacturing, all retail and wholesale trade, state monopoly on foreign trade, and finally, collectivization of farming. All this is achieved by a minority part, with no compensation, and deliberately encouraged class violence, especially in the countryside.
    Patent law doesn’t figure. It’s a non-issue. Ditto for intellectual property.
    And the bloodiest part of it is always the elimination of family farms. Private freehold farms may not be Biblical, but they are the part of private ownership any socialist/Communist government on earth is going to have to use state terror, exile, killings, and privatized violence (tenants/squatters killing landlords), to get rid of. Which is why only Communists even try it.

  83. CPA says:

    John, come on, don’t play dumb. We all know what socialism means on the social-democratic model and the Communist model. In either case, you have state ownership of transportation, communications, mining, and some key manufacturing firms (“the commanding heights”), achieved through consensus and compensation.
    In the Communism you add to that ownership of all banks, all manufacturing, all retail and wholesale trade, state monopoly on foreign trade, and finally, collectivization of farming. All this is achieved by a minority part, with no compensation, and deliberately encouraged class violence, especially in the countryside.
    Patent law doesn’t figure. It’s a non-issue. Ditto for intellectual property.
    And the bloodiest part of it is always the elimination of family farms. Private freehold farms may not be Biblical, but they are the part of private ownership any socialist/Communist government on earth is going to have to use state terror, exile, killings, and privatized violence (tenants/squatters killing landlords), to get rid of. Which is why only Communists even try it.

  84. CPA says:

    John, come on, don’t play dumb. We all know what socialism means on the social-democratic model and the Communist model. In either case, you have state ownership of transportation, communications, mining, and some key manufacturing firms (“the commanding heights”), achieved through consensus and compensation.
    In the Communism you add to that ownership of all banks, all manufacturing, all retail and wholesale trade, state monopoly on foreign trade, and finally, collectivization of farming. All this is achieved by a minority part, with no compensation, and deliberately encouraged class violence, especially in the countryside.
    Patent law doesn’t figure. It’s a non-issue. Ditto for intellectual property.
    And the bloodiest part of it is always the elimination of family farms. Private freehold farms may not be Biblical, but they are the part of private ownership any socialist/Communist government on earth is going to have to use state terror, exile, killings, and privatized violence (tenants/squatters killing landlords), to get rid of. Which is why only Communists even try it.

  85. John H says:

    Chris: I’m with you when it comes to those issues of collectivisation. It is chilling, in the light of what subsequently happened, to read in the Communist Manifesto such proposals as “Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture”, and “”Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country” (though that point about the “gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country” now seems to be being accomplished by the English middle classes ;-))
    The point about patent law was not that it is a major issue in itself, but that (i) it is an issue close to my heart, as an intellectual property/technology lawyer, and (ii) it is a particularly clear illustration of the “constructedness” of property rights.
    “Commanding heights” nationalisation has undoubtedly run its course, and I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting it today. The idea of state-run car manufacturers and telephone companies does seem pretty alien now (though at least we had car manufacturers back then). But privatisation of the railways has not proven at all popular, for example.
    In any event, I don’t think you can say that “socialism … on the social democratic model”, even in its fullest, nationalise-the-top-200-companies expression, is merely different in degree from “the dictatorship of the proletariat”, or just a staging post on the road to the horrors that were seen in Russia, China, Cambodia and pretty well everywhere else that Communism took hold.
    That’s the sort of argument that Churchill tried to use against Attlee’s Labour Party in 1945 (he warned that Labour “would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo” to implement its reforms), with a conspicuous lack of success, precisely because people knew the Labour Party, knew Attlee and knew full well that they were not Communists or tyrants in the making.
    By 1951 Churchill had the sense not to repeat that line, but to go for the approach of saying, “We can run the Welfare State better than Labour”.

  86. John H says:

    Chris: I’m with you when it comes to those issues of collectivisation. It is chilling, in the light of what subsequently happened, to read in the Communist Manifesto such proposals as “Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture”, and “”Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country” (though that point about the “gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country” now seems to be being accomplished by the English middle classes ;-))
    The point about patent law was not that it is a major issue in itself, but that (i) it is an issue close to my heart, as an intellectual property/technology lawyer, and (ii) it is a particularly clear illustration of the “constructedness” of property rights.
    “Commanding heights” nationalisation has undoubtedly run its course, and I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting it today. The idea of state-run car manufacturers and telephone companies does seem pretty alien now (though at least we had car manufacturers back then). But privatisation of the railways has not proven at all popular, for example.
    In any event, I don’t think you can say that “socialism … on the social democratic model”, even in its fullest, nationalise-the-top-200-companies expression, is merely different in degree from “the dictatorship of the proletariat”, or just a staging post on the road to the horrors that were seen in Russia, China, Cambodia and pretty well everywhere else that Communism took hold.
    That’s the sort of argument that Churchill tried to use against Attlee’s Labour Party in 1945 (he warned that Labour “would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo” to implement its reforms), with a conspicuous lack of success, precisely because people knew the Labour Party, knew Attlee and knew full well that they were not Communists or tyrants in the making.
    By 1951 Churchill had the sense not to repeat that line, but to go for the approach of saying, “We can run the Welfare State better than Labour”.

  87. John H says:

    Chris: I’m with you when it comes to those issues of collectivisation. It is chilling, in the light of what subsequently happened, to read in the Communist Manifesto such proposals as “Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture”, and “”Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country” (though that point about the “gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country” now seems to be being accomplished by the English middle classes ;-))
    The point about patent law was not that it is a major issue in itself, but that (i) it is an issue close to my heart, as an intellectual property/technology lawyer, and (ii) it is a particularly clear illustration of the “constructedness” of property rights.
    “Commanding heights” nationalisation has undoubtedly run its course, and I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting it today. The idea of state-run car manufacturers and telephone companies does seem pretty alien now (though at least we had car manufacturers back then). But privatisation of the railways has not proven at all popular, for example.
    In any event, I don’t think you can say that “socialism … on the social democratic model”, even in its fullest, nationalise-the-top-200-companies expression, is merely different in degree from “the dictatorship of the proletariat”, or just a staging post on the road to the horrors that were seen in Russia, China, Cambodia and pretty well everywhere else that Communism took hold.
    That’s the sort of argument that Churchill tried to use against Attlee’s Labour Party in 1945 (he warned that Labour “would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo” to implement its reforms), with a conspicuous lack of success, precisely because people knew the Labour Party, knew Attlee and knew full well that they were not Communists or tyrants in the making.
    By 1951 Churchill had the sense not to repeat that line, but to go for the approach of saying, “We can run the Welfare State better than Labour”.

  88. John H says:

    Chris: I’m with you when it comes to those issues of collectivisation. It is chilling, in the light of what subsequently happened, to read in the Communist Manifesto such proposals as “Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture”, and “”Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country” (though that point about the “gradual abolition of the distinction between town and country” now seems to be being accomplished by the English middle classes ;-))
    The point about patent law was not that it is a major issue in itself, but that (i) it is an issue close to my heart, as an intellectual property/technology lawyer, and (ii) it is a particularly clear illustration of the “constructedness” of property rights.
    “Commanding heights” nationalisation has undoubtedly run its course, and I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting it today. The idea of state-run car manufacturers and telephone companies does seem pretty alien now (though at least we had car manufacturers back then). But privatisation of the railways has not proven at all popular, for example.
    In any event, I don’t think you can say that “socialism … on the social democratic model”, even in its fullest, nationalise-the-top-200-companies expression, is merely different in degree from “the dictatorship of the proletariat”, or just a staging post on the road to the horrors that were seen in Russia, China, Cambodia and pretty well everywhere else that Communism took hold.
    That’s the sort of argument that Churchill tried to use against Attlee’s Labour Party in 1945 (he warned that Labour “would have to fall back on some form of Gestapo” to implement its reforms), with a conspicuous lack of success, precisely because people knew the Labour Party, knew Attlee and knew full well that they were not Communists or tyrants in the making.
    By 1951 Churchill had the sense not to repeat that line, but to go for the approach of saying, “We can run the Welfare State better than Labour”.

  89. Chris Jones says:

    John
    Without prejudice to your claim that “democratic socialism” is different in kind from communism, I would note that just because a bit of language works in an election campaign does not mean that it is the truth.
    On your substantive point, remember that my original statement was somewhat qualified: They [the crimes of Mao, etc.] are the natural, if not inevitable, result of the ideology. What both variants of socialism have in common is that they are both false and inherently unjust.
    The will of the majority (which is what makes democratic socialism democratic) does not confer justice on actions that otherwise lack it. A sovereign who rules unjustly is accurately called a tyrant; and that is true whether the sovereign is a king, a dictator, or the people.
    If the injustices of democratic socialism are not as bad as the enormities of communism, that is not because of anything inherent in socialism. It is because the excesses of socialism are being restrained by something outside socialism itself: the genuinely liberal values of the culture, or the remnants of Christianity (if those two are not the same thing).

  90. Chris Jones says:

    John
    Without prejudice to your claim that “democratic socialism” is different in kind from communism, I would note that just because a bit of language works in an election campaign does not mean that it is the truth.
    On your substantive point, remember that my original statement was somewhat qualified: They [the crimes of Mao, etc.] are the natural, if not inevitable, result of the ideology. What both variants of socialism have in common is that they are both false and inherently unjust.
    The will of the majority (which is what makes democratic socialism democratic) does not confer justice on actions that otherwise lack it. A sovereign who rules unjustly is accurately called a tyrant; and that is true whether the sovereign is a king, a dictator, or the people.
    If the injustices of democratic socialism are not as bad as the enormities of communism, that is not because of anything inherent in socialism. It is because the excesses of socialism are being restrained by something outside socialism itself: the genuinely liberal values of the culture, or the remnants of Christianity (if those two are not the same thing).

  91. Chris Jones says:

    John
    Without prejudice to your claim that “democratic socialism” is different in kind from communism, I would note that just because a bit of language works in an election campaign does not mean that it is the truth.
    On your substantive point, remember that my original statement was somewhat qualified: They [the crimes of Mao, etc.] are the natural, if not inevitable, result of the ideology. What both variants of socialism have in common is that they are both false and inherently unjust.
    The will of the majority (which is what makes democratic socialism democratic) does not confer justice on actions that otherwise lack it. A sovereign who rules unjustly is accurately called a tyrant; and that is true whether the sovereign is a king, a dictator, or the people.
    If the injustices of democratic socialism are not as bad as the enormities of communism, that is not because of anything inherent in socialism. It is because the excesses of socialism are being restrained by something outside socialism itself: the genuinely liberal values of the culture, or the remnants of Christianity (if those two are not the same thing).

  92. Chris Jones says:

    John
    Without prejudice to your claim that “democratic socialism” is different in kind from communism, I would note that just because a bit of language works in an election campaign does not mean that it is the truth.
    On your substantive point, remember that my original statement was somewhat qualified: They [the crimes of Mao, etc.] are the natural, if not inevitable, result of the ideology. What both variants of socialism have in common is that they are both false and inherently unjust.
    The will of the majority (which is what makes democratic socialism democratic) does not confer justice on actions that otherwise lack it. A sovereign who rules unjustly is accurately called a tyrant; and that is true whether the sovereign is a king, a dictator, or the people.
    If the injustices of democratic socialism are not as bad as the enormities of communism, that is not because of anything inherent in socialism. It is because the excesses of socialism are being restrained by something outside socialism itself: the genuinely liberal values of the culture, or the remnants of Christianity (if those two are not the same thing).

  93. John H says:

    A sovereign who rules unjustly is accurately called a tyrant; and that is true whether the sovereign is a king, a dictator, or the people.
    True – the question is what constitutes just or unjust rule. The argument in favour of redistributive policies is that to fail to redistribute wealth is to support injustice, that a government that does is simply the ruling class using a figleaf of legality to preserve its own unjust privileges.
    I’m not saying I agree with that assessment, just that the argument about what is just or unjust cuts both ways – that there is no such thing as neutral or inactive government; any decision of a government to act or not to act is a positive expression of political power. To leave people in possession of property is as definite an act as to take that property away from them: the question is which course of action is just, and that will largely depend on whether the property is justly held.
    To put it another way: the most compelling Christian argument against socialism is that it breaches the commandment against stealing. But I guess that the counterargument is that socialism merely overturns a theft that has already occurred – of what the old Clause 4 of the Labour Party called “the full fruit of [the workers’] industry”. Even on the narrowest definition of the state’s rights and duties, restoration of stolen property to its rightful owner is one of the state’s functions.
    Again, I’m not saying I agree with that, not least because I’m all-too conscious of how these principles have played out in practice.
    Finally, there are enormities of capitalism that are only held in restraint by outside values – the loss of many of those outside values with the decline of Christianity is one of the greatest problems we face as a capitalist society, and in the absence of those values I don’t pretend that socialism offers any answer either. To be honest, I’m not even sure what socialism means today, if anything.

  94. John H says:

    A sovereign who rules unjustly is accurately called a tyrant; and that is true whether the sovereign is a king, a dictator, or the people.
    True – the question is what constitutes just or unjust rule. The argument in favour of redistributive policies is that to fail to redistribute wealth is to support injustice, that a government that does is simply the ruling class using a figleaf of legality to preserve its own unjust privileges.
    I’m not saying I agree with that assessment, just that the argument about what is just or unjust cuts both ways – that there is no such thing as neutral or inactive government; any decision of a government to act or not to act is a positive expression of political power. To leave people in possession of property is as definite an act as to take that property away from them: the question is which course of action is just, and that will largely depend on whether the property is justly held.
    To put it another way: the most compelling Christian argument against socialism is that it breaches the commandment against stealing. But I guess that the counterargument is that socialism merely overturns a theft that has already occurred – of what the old Clause 4 of the Labour Party called “the full fruit of [the workers’] industry”. Even on the narrowest definition of the state’s rights and duties, restoration of stolen property to its rightful owner is one of the state’s functions.
    Again, I’m not saying I agree with that, not least because I’m all-too conscious of how these principles have played out in practice.
    Finally, there are enormities of capitalism that are only held in restraint by outside values – the loss of many of those outside values with the decline of Christianity is one of the greatest problems we face as a capitalist society, and in the absence of those values I don’t pretend that socialism offers any answer either. To be honest, I’m not even sure what socialism means today, if anything.

  95. John H says:

    A sovereign who rules unjustly is accurately called a tyrant; and that is true whether the sovereign is a king, a dictator, or the people.
    True – the question is what constitutes just or unjust rule. The argument in favour of redistributive policies is that to fail to redistribute wealth is to support injustice, that a government that does is simply the ruling class using a figleaf of legality to preserve its own unjust privileges.
    I’m not saying I agree with that assessment, just that the argument about what is just or unjust cuts both ways – that there is no such thing as neutral or inactive government; any decision of a government to act or not to act is a positive expression of political power. To leave people in possession of property is as definite an act as to take that property away from them: the question is which course of action is just, and that will largely depend on whether the property is justly held.
    To put it another way: the most compelling Christian argument against socialism is that it breaches the commandment against stealing. But I guess that the counterargument is that socialism merely overturns a theft that has already occurred – of what the old Clause 4 of the Labour Party called “the full fruit of [the workers’] industry”. Even on the narrowest definition of the state’s rights and duties, restoration of stolen property to its rightful owner is one of the state’s functions.
    Again, I’m not saying I agree with that, not least because I’m all-too conscious of how these principles have played out in practice.
    Finally, there are enormities of capitalism that are only held in restraint by outside values – the loss of many of those outside values with the decline of Christianity is one of the greatest problems we face as a capitalist society, and in the absence of those values I don’t pretend that socialism offers any answer either. To be honest, I’m not even sure what socialism means today, if anything.

  96. John H says:

    A sovereign who rules unjustly is accurately called a tyrant; and that is true whether the sovereign is a king, a dictator, or the people.
    True – the question is what constitutes just or unjust rule. The argument in favour of redistributive policies is that to fail to redistribute wealth is to support injustice, that a government that does is simply the ruling class using a figleaf of legality to preserve its own unjust privileges.
    I’m not saying I agree with that assessment, just that the argument about what is just or unjust cuts both ways – that there is no such thing as neutral or inactive government; any decision of a government to act or not to act is a positive expression of political power. To leave people in possession of property is as definite an act as to take that property away from them: the question is which course of action is just, and that will largely depend on whether the property is justly held.
    To put it another way: the most compelling Christian argument against socialism is that it breaches the commandment against stealing. But I guess that the counterargument is that socialism merely overturns a theft that has already occurred – of what the old Clause 4 of the Labour Party called “the full fruit of [the workers’] industry”. Even on the narrowest definition of the state’s rights and duties, restoration of stolen property to its rightful owner is one of the state’s functions.
    Again, I’m not saying I agree with that, not least because I’m all-too conscious of how these principles have played out in practice.
    Finally, there are enormities of capitalism that are only held in restraint by outside values – the loss of many of those outside values with the decline of Christianity is one of the greatest problems we face as a capitalist society, and in the absence of those values I don’t pretend that socialism offers any answer either. To be honest, I’m not even sure what socialism means today, if anything.

  97. CPA says:

    John, I wasn’t trying to say that democratic socialism leads to Communism. Sorry if I gave that impression. I agree that we need to be MORE, not LESS, clear about the difference between the two. My point was just that there are two types of genuinely socialist programs, but both, in differing extent, involve widespread state expropriation of property that fits the intuitive idea of property as a real tangible thing much better than does the very abstract ideas of patents or intellectual property. If some concrete tangible property isn’t being taken by the state, then you don’t really have socialism (democratic or dictatorial).
    Especially in light of your last comment, I have to make a naughty comparison: you sound to me a little bit like a guy who grew up Christian, lost his faith, but somehow wants to retain the idea of himself as a “religious man”. So he redefines whatever vague feelings of “wonder at the vastness of the cosmos” he has now as Christianity. Substitute socialism for Christianity and you see what I mean :^)

  98. CPA says:

    John, I wasn’t trying to say that democratic socialism leads to Communism. Sorry if I gave that impression. I agree that we need to be MORE, not LESS, clear about the difference between the two. My point was just that there are two types of genuinely socialist programs, but both, in differing extent, involve widespread state expropriation of property that fits the intuitive idea of property as a real tangible thing much better than does the very abstract ideas of patents or intellectual property. If some concrete tangible property isn’t being taken by the state, then you don’t really have socialism (democratic or dictatorial).
    Especially in light of your last comment, I have to make a naughty comparison: you sound to me a little bit like a guy who grew up Christian, lost his faith, but somehow wants to retain the idea of himself as a “religious man”. So he redefines whatever vague feelings of “wonder at the vastness of the cosmos” he has now as Christianity. Substitute socialism for Christianity and you see what I mean :^)

  99. CPA says:

    John, I wasn’t trying to say that democratic socialism leads to Communism. Sorry if I gave that impression. I agree that we need to be MORE, not LESS, clear about the difference between the two. My point was just that there are two types of genuinely socialist programs, but both, in differing extent, involve widespread state expropriation of property that fits the intuitive idea of property as a real tangible thing much better than does the very abstract ideas of patents or intellectual property. If some concrete tangible property isn’t being taken by the state, then you don’t really have socialism (democratic or dictatorial).
    Especially in light of your last comment, I have to make a naughty comparison: you sound to me a little bit like a guy who grew up Christian, lost his faith, but somehow wants to retain the idea of himself as a “religious man”. So he redefines whatever vague feelings of “wonder at the vastness of the cosmos” he has now as Christianity. Substitute socialism for Christianity and you see what I mean :^)

  100. CPA says:

    John, I wasn’t trying to say that democratic socialism leads to Communism. Sorry if I gave that impression. I agree that we need to be MORE, not LESS, clear about the difference between the two. My point was just that there are two types of genuinely socialist programs, but both, in differing extent, involve widespread state expropriation of property that fits the intuitive idea of property as a real tangible thing much better than does the very abstract ideas of patents or intellectual property. If some concrete tangible property isn’t being taken by the state, then you don’t really have socialism (democratic or dictatorial).
    Especially in light of your last comment, I have to make a naughty comparison: you sound to me a little bit like a guy who grew up Christian, lost his faith, but somehow wants to retain the idea of himself as a “religious man”. So he redefines whatever vague feelings of “wonder at the vastness of the cosmos” he has now as Christianity. Substitute socialism for Christianity and you see what I mean :^)

  101. John H says:

    Chris: you sound to me a little bit like a guy who grew up Christian, lost his faith, but somehow wants to retain the idea of himself as a “religious man”…
    Not a naughty comparison at all. A very fair point. Ouch. You got me. πŸ˜‰
    It reminds me of Billy Bragg’s song Upfield, where he uses the line, “I’ve got a socialism of the heart” – in other words, “just because socialism as a political programme is dead, doesn’t mean I don’t really care“.

  102. John H says:

    Chris: you sound to me a little bit like a guy who grew up Christian, lost his faith, but somehow wants to retain the idea of himself as a “religious man”…
    Not a naughty comparison at all. A very fair point. Ouch. You got me. πŸ˜‰
    It reminds me of Billy Bragg’s song Upfield, where he uses the line, “I’ve got a socialism of the heart” – in other words, “just because socialism as a political programme is dead, doesn’t mean I don’t really care“.

  103. John H says:

    Chris: you sound to me a little bit like a guy who grew up Christian, lost his faith, but somehow wants to retain the idea of himself as a “religious man”…
    Not a naughty comparison at all. A very fair point. Ouch. You got me. πŸ˜‰
    It reminds me of Billy Bragg’s song Upfield, where he uses the line, “I’ve got a socialism of the heart” – in other words, “just because socialism as a political programme is dead, doesn’t mean I don’t really care“.

  104. John H says:

    Chris: you sound to me a little bit like a guy who grew up Christian, lost his faith, but somehow wants to retain the idea of himself as a “religious man”…
    Not a naughty comparison at all. A very fair point. Ouch. You got me. πŸ˜‰
    It reminds me of Billy Bragg’s song Upfield, where he uses the line, “I’ve got a socialism of the heart” – in other words, “just because socialism as a political programme is dead, doesn’t mean I don’t really care“.

  105. Chris Jones says:

    To leave people in possession of property is as definite an act as to take that property away from them
    I disagree strongly with this. This implies that a person’s right to his property derives from the state’s decision to “leave him in possession of it”. But that is to rob “property” of its essential meaning. A person’s property is that which is proper to him; it is his own. The right to property is not a grant of the state; it is a natural right, anterior and superior to all positive law.
    You say that the justice of expropriation will largely depend on whether the property is justly held, with the apparent understanding that it is the state which decides what is and is not just tenure. But if I am correct that property is a natural, God-given right, there should be a strong presumption that the tenure is just. No one is saying that the state may not take property when it is established, in a particular case, that the purported owner has in fact no right to a particular property.
    But that is not what socialism says. Socialism denies the natural right to property as a matter of first principles. Where the holding of property is allowed under a socialist system, it is by sufferance and grant of the state, not as a matter of natural right. (Was it not Proudhon who gave us the definitional aphorism, Property is theft?)
    The recognition that property is a natural right rather than a grant of the state, and the presumption that a person’s holding of his property is just, is analogous to the presumption of innocence in English and American common law. This is why the American Constitution requires that No person … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

  106. Chris Jones says:

    To leave people in possession of property is as definite an act as to take that property away from them
    I disagree strongly with this. This implies that a person’s right to his property derives from the state’s decision to “leave him in possession of it”. But that is to rob “property” of its essential meaning. A person’s property is that which is proper to him; it is his own. The right to property is not a grant of the state; it is a natural right, anterior and superior to all positive law.
    You say that the justice of expropriation will largely depend on whether the property is justly held, with the apparent understanding that it is the state which decides what is and is not just tenure. But if I am correct that property is a natural, God-given right, there should be a strong presumption that the tenure is just. No one is saying that the state may not take property when it is established, in a particular case, that the purported owner has in fact no right to a particular property.
    But that is not what socialism says. Socialism denies the natural right to property as a matter of first principles. Where the holding of property is allowed under a socialist system, it is by sufferance and grant of the state, not as a matter of natural right. (Was it not Proudhon who gave us the definitional aphorism, Property is theft?)
    The recognition that property is a natural right rather than a grant of the state, and the presumption that a person’s holding of his property is just, is analogous to the presumption of innocence in English and American common law. This is why the American Constitution requires that No person … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

  107. Chris Jones says:

    To leave people in possession of property is as definite an act as to take that property away from them
    I disagree strongly with this. This implies that a person’s right to his property derives from the state’s decision to “leave him in possession of it”. But that is to rob “property” of its essential meaning. A person’s property is that which is proper to him; it is his own. The right to property is not a grant of the state; it is a natural right, anterior and superior to all positive law.
    You say that the justice of expropriation will largely depend on whether the property is justly held, with the apparent understanding that it is the state which decides what is and is not just tenure. But if I am correct that property is a natural, God-given right, there should be a strong presumption that the tenure is just. No one is saying that the state may not take property when it is established, in a particular case, that the purported owner has in fact no right to a particular property.
    But that is not what socialism says. Socialism denies the natural right to property as a matter of first principles. Where the holding of property is allowed under a socialist system, it is by sufferance and grant of the state, not as a matter of natural right. (Was it not Proudhon who gave us the definitional aphorism, Property is theft?)
    The recognition that property is a natural right rather than a grant of the state, and the presumption that a person’s holding of his property is just, is analogous to the presumption of innocence in English and American common law. This is why the American Constitution requires that No person … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

  108. Chris Jones says:

    To leave people in possession of property is as definite an act as to take that property away from them
    I disagree strongly with this. This implies that a person’s right to his property derives from the state’s decision to “leave him in possession of it”. But that is to rob “property” of its essential meaning. A person’s property is that which is proper to him; it is his own. The right to property is not a grant of the state; it is a natural right, anterior and superior to all positive law.
    You say that the justice of expropriation will largely depend on whether the property is justly held, with the apparent understanding that it is the state which decides what is and is not just tenure. But if I am correct that property is a natural, God-given right, there should be a strong presumption that the tenure is just. No one is saying that the state may not take property when it is established, in a particular case, that the purported owner has in fact no right to a particular property.
    But that is not what socialism says. Socialism denies the natural right to property as a matter of first principles. Where the holding of property is allowed under a socialist system, it is by sufferance and grant of the state, not as a matter of natural right. (Was it not Proudhon who gave us the definitional aphorism, Property is theft?)
    The recognition that property is a natural right rather than a grant of the state, and the presumption that a person’s holding of his property is just, is analogous to the presumption of innocence in English and American common law. This is why the American Constitution requires that No person … be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

  109. John H says:

    This implies that a person’s right to his property derives from the state’s decision to “leave him in possession of it”.
    No, all I meant was that the state could (as a simple matter of fact) deprive him of his property if it decided to, however unjust that may be.
    The right to property is not a grant of the state; it is a natural right, anterior and superior to all positive law.
    On one level I agree with that, but on another level I’m thinking, “what do you mean, ‘right to property’?” Property rights are complex and wide-ranging – leasehold, copyhold, commonhold, freehold rights; easements, profits a prendre, covenants and other rights over someone else’s land; intellectual property rights and other “intangibles”; rights in tangible personal property (chattels). There have been times when some human beings would have been regarded as falling within the heading of “property”.
    You can never, shouldn’t even try to, abolish the human instinct to own stuff. But (at the risk of sounding like Marx insisting that he only wanted to abolish “bourgeois” property rights) that doesn’t mean that every legal framework of property rights is eternal and immutable.
    In the same way, marriage is fundamental, even more so than property – basic to how we are as created human beings. But the expression of marriage has differed greatly within different societies – not only gross distortions such as polygamy, but just the different rights of spouses, different expectations of marriage, different patterns of courtship etc.
    Perhaps the desire to add field to field, to accumulate property (“capital”) at the expense of others, should be seen as akin to polygamy – and seeking to abolish polygamy is scarcely a threat to the institution of marriage.

  110. John H says:

    This implies that a person’s right to his property derives from the state’s decision to “leave him in possession of it”.
    No, all I meant was that the state could (as a simple matter of fact) deprive him of his property if it decided to, however unjust that may be.
    The right to property is not a grant of the state; it is a natural right, anterior and superior to all positive law.
    On one level I agree with that, but on another level I’m thinking, “what do you mean, ‘right to property’?” Property rights are complex and wide-ranging – leasehold, copyhold, commonhold, freehold rights; easements, profits a prendre, covenants and other rights over someone else’s land; intellectual property rights and other “intangibles”; rights in tangible personal property (chattels). There have been times when some human beings would have been regarded as falling within the heading of “property”.
    You can never, shouldn’t even try to, abolish the human instinct to own stuff. But (at the risk of sounding like Marx insisting that he only wanted to abolish “bourgeois” property rights) that doesn’t mean that every legal framework of property rights is eternal and immutable.
    In the same way, marriage is fundamental, even more so than property – basic to how we are as created human beings. But the expression of marriage has differed greatly within different societies – not only gross distortions such as polygamy, but just the different rights of spouses, different expectations of marriage, different patterns of courtship etc.
    Perhaps the desire to add field to field, to accumulate property (“capital”) at the expense of others, should be seen as akin to polygamy – and seeking to abolish polygamy is scarcely a threat to the institution of marriage.

  111. John H says:

    This implies that a person’s right to his property derives from the state’s decision to “leave him in possession of it”.
    No, all I meant was that the state could (as a simple matter of fact) deprive him of his property if it decided to, however unjust that may be.
    The right to property is not a grant of the state; it is a natural right, anterior and superior to all positive law.
    On one level I agree with that, but on another level I’m thinking, “what do you mean, ‘right to property’?” Property rights are complex and wide-ranging – leasehold, copyhold, commonhold, freehold rights; easements, profits a prendre, covenants and other rights over someone else’s land; intellectual property rights and other “intangibles”; rights in tangible personal property (chattels). There have been times when some human beings would have been regarded as falling within the heading of “property”.
    You can never, shouldn’t even try to, abolish the human instinct to own stuff. But (at the risk of sounding like Marx insisting that he only wanted to abolish “bourgeois” property rights) that doesn’t mean that every legal framework of property rights is eternal and immutable.
    In the same way, marriage is fundamental, even more so than property – basic to how we are as created human beings. But the expression of marriage has differed greatly within different societies – not only gross distortions such as polygamy, but just the different rights of spouses, different expectations of marriage, different patterns of courtship etc.
    Perhaps the desire to add field to field, to accumulate property (“capital”) at the expense of others, should be seen as akin to polygamy – and seeking to abolish polygamy is scarcely a threat to the institution of marriage.

  112. John H says:

    This implies that a person’s right to his property derives from the state’s decision to “leave him in possession of it”.
    No, all I meant was that the state could (as a simple matter of fact) deprive him of his property if it decided to, however unjust that may be.
    The right to property is not a grant of the state; it is a natural right, anterior and superior to all positive law.
    On one level I agree with that, but on another level I’m thinking, “what do you mean, ‘right to property’?” Property rights are complex and wide-ranging – leasehold, copyhold, commonhold, freehold rights; easements, profits a prendre, covenants and other rights over someone else’s land; intellectual property rights and other “intangibles”; rights in tangible personal property (chattels). There have been times when some human beings would have been regarded as falling within the heading of “property”.
    You can never, shouldn’t even try to, abolish the human instinct to own stuff. But (at the risk of sounding like Marx insisting that he only wanted to abolish “bourgeois” property rights) that doesn’t mean that every legal framework of property rights is eternal and immutable.
    In the same way, marriage is fundamental, even more so than property – basic to how we are as created human beings. But the expression of marriage has differed greatly within different societies – not only gross distortions such as polygamy, but just the different rights of spouses, different expectations of marriage, different patterns of courtship etc.
    Perhaps the desire to add field to field, to accumulate property (“capital”) at the expense of others, should be seen as akin to polygamy – and seeking to abolish polygamy is scarcely a threat to the institution of marriage.

  113. Chris Jones says:

    every legal framework of property rights is [not] eternal and immutable.
    No disputing that. But neither am I, in my remarks, talking about every form of property that has been, or ever could be, devised. In the context of a discussion of socialism, clearly we are talking about property which is a means of production. This I take to mean, in the first instance, land; and such long-term improvements to the land which may be used to produce goods and services.
    You are right that, like marriage, property has been handled differently in different societies. And it is fitting for a society to regulate for the common good the manner in which property is to be used, whether by law or custom. But that is predicated on a recognition by the state of the natural right to property. Otherwise the right to property becomes provisional and subject to the whim of the state. Then St Augustine’s aphorism applies: What is the state without justice, but a band of thieves?
    It seems to me that your characterization of capital formation as to accumulate property (“capital”) at the expense of others is a bit tendentious. Capital formation is “at the expense of others” only if it is stolen. To condemn accumulation per se as intrinsically suspect is hardly fair.

  114. Chris Jones says:

    every legal framework of property rights is [not] eternal and immutable.
    No disputing that. But neither am I, in my remarks, talking about every form of property that has been, or ever could be, devised. In the context of a discussion of socialism, clearly we are talking about property which is a means of production. This I take to mean, in the first instance, land; and such long-term improvements to the land which may be used to produce goods and services.
    You are right that, like marriage, property has been handled differently in different societies. And it is fitting for a society to regulate for the common good the manner in which property is to be used, whether by law or custom. But that is predicated on a recognition by the state of the natural right to property. Otherwise the right to property becomes provisional and subject to the whim of the state. Then St Augustine’s aphorism applies: What is the state without justice, but a band of thieves?
    It seems to me that your characterization of capital formation as to accumulate property (“capital”) at the expense of others is a bit tendentious. Capital formation is “at the expense of others” only if it is stolen. To condemn accumulation per se as intrinsically suspect is hardly fair.

  115. Chris Jones says:

    every legal framework of property rights is [not] eternal and immutable.
    No disputing that. But neither am I, in my remarks, talking about every form of property that has been, or ever could be, devised. In the context of a discussion of socialism, clearly we are talking about property which is a means of production. This I take to mean, in the first instance, land; and such long-term improvements to the land which may be used to produce goods and services.
    You are right that, like marriage, property has been handled differently in different societies. And it is fitting for a society to regulate for the common good the manner in which property is to be used, whether by law or custom. But that is predicated on a recognition by the state of the natural right to property. Otherwise the right to property becomes provisional and subject to the whim of the state. Then St Augustine’s aphorism applies: What is the state without justice, but a band of thieves?
    It seems to me that your characterization of capital formation as to accumulate property (“capital”) at the expense of others is a bit tendentious. Capital formation is “at the expense of others” only if it is stolen. To condemn accumulation per se as intrinsically suspect is hardly fair.

  116. Chris Jones says:

    every legal framework of property rights is [not] eternal and immutable.
    No disputing that. But neither am I, in my remarks, talking about every form of property that has been, or ever could be, devised. In the context of a discussion of socialism, clearly we are talking about property which is a means of production. This I take to mean, in the first instance, land; and such long-term improvements to the land which may be used to produce goods and services.
    You are right that, like marriage, property has been handled differently in different societies. And it is fitting for a society to regulate for the common good the manner in which property is to be used, whether by law or custom. But that is predicated on a recognition by the state of the natural right to property. Otherwise the right to property becomes provisional and subject to the whim of the state. Then St Augustine’s aphorism applies: What is the state without justice, but a band of thieves?
    It seems to me that your characterization of capital formation as to accumulate property (“capital”) at the expense of others is a bit tendentious. Capital formation is “at the expense of others” only if it is stolen. To condemn accumulation per se as intrinsically suspect is hardly fair.

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