Scanlon contra libertarianism

by Chris Bertram on October 19, 2011

T.M. Scanlon has a very nice little piece in the Boston Review, discussing and rejecting the main grounds adduced by libertarians in favour of limited government and lower taxes. I’m not sure that I’d express the distinction between the limited rights a person has over things in a state of nature and property rights in quite the same terms as he does, but that’s probably just linguistic. His discussion of the crop-stealing marauders case is important because it grants the force of a libertarian intuition whilst limiting the mileage that libertarians can get from it for a complex society. Good stuff. Read the whole thing.

Mine’s a Costa Light

by Maria on October 19, 2011

A few weeks ago, the Tesco a playing field away from my house re-opened with a new look and a Costa café. The new look seems to be simply the re-situating of the booze section to the middle of the shop, so you now have to pass by the beer offers before getting at frozen foods or cleaning products. And the eggs have been put somewhere so unlikely – and of course miles from other staples like milk or bread – that the staff laugh or frown when you ask where, they have to answer so often.

Not much else has changed; the vegetable section is either bulging with unlikely and out of season produce or empty like in a zombie movie or communist Russia. The price war turns out to be just lower prices than in August when they were hiked up ahead of time. And there are a couple more self-checkouts barking orders and requiring on average two staff interventions to make each transaction go through.

But the Costa. That’s changed everything.

This is a suburb of Edinburgh about a mile from the nearer villages and with a mix of public and private housing. It’s by no means isolated, but on a wet and blustery day twenty minutes walk feels too far for a pint of milk or the morning paper. I can’t imagine I’d do it more than once a week if I had a buggy to push or arthritis, no matter how lonely or fed up I was. And when you work from home, a burst of fresh air and a face to face conversation with a real, live human is a godsend.

Now, one of my daily highlights is my overpriced, under-caffeinated and much loved light latte sipped at a plastic table under piped music drowned out by the endless cheeping of supermarket scanners. A mix of the same people is there most days.

One is an elderly woman bent over a stick who waits discreetly at her table while the counter staff bring over her tea and biscuits. Another is any one of the buggy-pushing set enjoying a guilt-free sit down before getting on with the shop. My favourite is the older woman I always have to repeat my order to but who always seems uncommonly pleased to be there.

I suppose the point is that however annoying the perpetual encroachment of large corporates and their vertical integrations and tie-in deals, the day to day of mega-commerce can still boil down to people in a community using the place to find, talk to or just quietly appreciate each other.

Calm down, dears

by Maria on October 19, 2011

The Government is worried about women. Not worried in the sense of;

‘Concerned the female unemployment rate is higher and getting worse’;

‘Troubled that axing child benefit nudges middle class women out of work for good’;

‘Alarmed that women know health and education cuts doom their children to shorter, poorer lives’;

‘Horrified that targeted cutbacks to legal aid mean demonstrably more women will be murdered by the men they love’.

Not at all.

Silly women, the government thinks! Just because of our blue-sky thinking to cut parental leave in the never-ending War on Red Tape, why would women think we have it in for them?

But the UK equivalent of the American soccer mom is deserting the coalition government in droves, and she must be won back. How? The coalition can’t miss this once-in-a-generation chance to destroy the welfare state in order to pay for banks and the imaginary economy they’ve destroyed. The cuts must go on.

Then what shall they do to win women back? How about some cheep ‘n cheerful eye-catching measures that show our hearts are in the right place? Let’s;

• Ban forced marriages, because that’s too simple an issue to cock up
• Pretend we can stop porn on the Internet, because women are too stupid to know it doesn’t work like that, and we can still get ours anyway
• Talk very loudly about how hideous it is to sexualize children, especially working class ones who don’t know any better
• Spend bazillions on our buddies’ flagship ‘free schools’ in west London to show we really care about the kids
• Remind everyone constantly that the Prime Minister’s heart is in the right place; he has NHS frequent flyer miles and he feels our pain

And you know what? Cameron is right to be a little perplexed that women are losing faith in him. Because the government’s faux-regretful gouges at the post-war social contract don’t just hurt women. They hurt everyone who’s not been sensible enough to be born or become wealthy. It’s just that women voters seem to be among the first to cop on to it.

But you can’t play the ‘trust me because I’m a reasonable, personable man with a clever wife I adore’ card more than once. Women aren’t stupid, and neither is the electorate.

MLK and non-violent protest

by John Q on October 19, 2011

Yesterday in DC, the Martin Luther King memorial was officially inaugurated. I was lucky enough to be invited to a lunch celebrating the event afterwards, where the speakers were veterans of the civil rights movement Andrew Young, John Dingell, and Harris Wofford. Video here

There were some interesting recollections of Dr King and his struggles, but not surprisingly, much of the discussion focused on the events of today, particularly the Occupy Wall Street movement. One of the speakers made the point that the Tahrir Square occupiers had been inspired by the example and ideas of Martin Luther King.

Now, of course, the circle has been closed with the example of Tahrir inspiring #OWS. There has been more direct inspiration too. When I visited the Washington occupation in McPherson Square to drop off some magazines for their library, I picked up a reproduction of a comic-book format publication of the civil rights movement (cover price, 10 cents!), describing the struggle and particular the careful preparation given to ensure a non-violent response, even in the face of violent provocation.

And that brings me to the question I want to discuss, one that is as relevant today as in the civil rights era.  When is violence justified as a response to manifest and apparently immovable injustice? My answer, with Martin Luther King is: Never, or almost never.[1]

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