Tyranny and Corruption in the Late West
If tyranny is to come in North America, it will come cozily and on cat's feet. It will come with the denial of the rights of the unborn and of the aged, the denial of the rights of the mentally retarded, the insane, and the economically less-privileged. In fact, it will come with the denial of rights to all those who cannot defend themselves. It will come in the name of the cost-benefit analysis of human life
Actually, George Grant's magnificent Red Tory discomfort with the modern liberal version of the 'rights agenda' is an interesting one, given that it is now about four years older than myself. I've always thought that it went further than North America, as he referred to Canada, too. People often think of 'Human Rights' as a given, sprung forth like Venus from a clamshell out of the mind of the enlightenment, and some have built a career on that sort of misunderstanding--but what, actually do they mean?

I can't point you legally to any one statement, not that a statement matters much to something which is in some ways a bundle of principles of varying importance plus the evolved procedures of law-based states. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is essentially a constraint on governments, for instance; the inter-American convention, and the European Convention, let alone the African declaration, all differ slightly, and case-law contains a margin of appreciation for the interpretation of rights which in some states turns into a chasm.

It suits the left and right to claim that rights are a monolith, usually associated with sociopathic narcissism and those aspects of libertarianism which the rich want someone else to take the blame for.

Really, though, are there not two streams of rights? One has a religious heritage. It is rooted in the idea of a compassionate society, in which all are linked one to the other, and in which life, reason, and being are all shielded by due process from the predations of companies, individuals and governments. That stream is invariably connected with some notion of property-based independence and active citizenry, but also with an objective notion that rights emerge spontaneously or inalienably from our common humanity and the fierce lesson that tyranny and selfishness does not pay.

The other stream has been essentially generated by lawyers as a kind of replacement for the Devlin style 'man on the bus' universalism that religious heritage used to give rise to. I also think that, because it has been expressed as a constraint on governments, that it has to go into all sorts of calculated torsions and delusions to become incumbent upon individuals. I am not sure that it works, or indeed that this stream does much of anything at all.

The difference between the two is important to me, in that economic questions increasingly come down to questions of value. Do we value each other, and is the value which we accord to money that of the base of work and resources that lies beneath it, or do we say things have value and good just because society ascribes those things to them?

Economics and politics are not so far apart, if one rides the first stream. I notice a bizarre confluence of catholic social thought, which is basically communitarian but which emphasises property based independence, and the Austrians. If money had value as land, or work, or resources, then the mad quantitative inflation which we are stoking would be seen for the lunacy which it is; and if we valued each other, and took an essentially local view of our surroundings in which each human being was a full person, not defined by one legal right or another, perhaps we would treat each other a little better.

If we treated each other better, we could save and not seek solace in credit and spending; we could invest in science and capital, and not in the consumer industries that divert us from our isolation. If we recognised how fallen we are, but that we could get up, we wouldn't as a society be plunging quite so steeply into obvious decline. People would use their minds to improve their societies rather than clinging to some false climate god that is now making monkeys of bien pensants everywhere.

The stagflationary crisis which I have amongst others have expected for some time is almost upon us, midwived into the world by peak oil and contingencies like the weather and war. People need to think about what they are going to stand for afterwards, and what we are going to do after the wave; because it is increasingly obvious that no one is going to do anything to stop it before the event.


Toni said…
Rather a gloomy Christmas message Martin. Britain is the sign of the times. We were the first Industrialised nation and the first post-industrial nation. America, for all its strengths, seems doomed to follow our example. We were the only European nation to oppose the basic human rights requirements of the European Community and our dishonest politicians and administrators used the media as their tool. Recall the headlines suggesting that an increased minimum wage will cause a spike in unemployment. The fact that religion has been marginalised in our society shows that we are not prepared to treat each other well. I am regarded as a "bit of a nutter" by my brother and the friends I have left because I occasionally go to Church. I am a bad Catholic and am well aware my reasons for attending mass are selfish but at the same time, it is apparent how even the most passing interest in such matters is regarded as being "a little bit mad". You are right to fear what will happen next, when people say to me religion is the cause of most wars, I have to stifle a laugh because Hitler, although born a Catholic was atheist as was Stalin and I would be interested to know what role faith played in Korea, Vietnam and the Falklands. Anyway hope you had a good Christmas, best wishes.
Martin Meenagh said…
Hi Toni

I'm a terrible Catholic as well, though I can't imagine myself not being of the faith. I agree with you about Britain, but then, this country tends to be at the leading edge of things. Locke, Newton and Wren rebuilt the country after the restoration by rebuilding London and dedicating the place to a financial and imperial globalism. Now, at the end of all that, Britain and its elite leads the world in reality TV, secularist hatred, and contempt for its own people. There's an arc there, I think.

I'm not too gloomy. I do get slightly irritated by people who should know better in the press desperately declaring recovery at any 0.1% revision of dodgy growth and inflation figures (of which more later) or desperately pootering around the idea of a mostly monetary stagflation.

Then again, life is too short. I've had a good Christmas and want to blog a little more positively through the cold that I have developed. I will try to make that a resolution!

All the very best of the season to you, Toni
Edward Spalton said…
Don't forget that "North America" includes Canada. It is where the loyalists fled after losing that civil war which was called the American Revolution or War of Independence.

I have some interesting thoughts from the Fifties on Canadian ( and British) constitutionality from John Colborn Farthing,a Canadian Anglican bishop's son who was what the Canadians call a "Red Tory".
I wrote a short, scrappy note on it. Email me at edward@spalton.me.uk , if you would like a copy.
Martin Meenagh said…
Dear Edward,

I'd be delighted to read it, and will e-mail you shortly. Three of my degrees at Oxford were more or less concerned with the history of North America, which I consider to be the USA, Cuba, Mexico and Canada, as well as the associated islands, but I am ashamed to say that I know the least about the Canadian Federation. As a non-practising Barrister and Law Tutor, I am interested by its caselaw and constitution, but not as much as those of Australia. Lovely little constitution the Aussies have (though Gough Whitlam and his successors would disagree).