David Selbourne

I\’m not in fact sure whether this David Selbourne fella is being serious or not.

Instead, modern free societies, the freest history has known, are gradually disintegrating from abuse of their freedoms. The harms being done to them by exploitation of their liberties are real; the harms being caused to them by the erosion of those liberties are largely imaginary.

It is here too that most of the left, whose socialist ideals have largely been displaced by an open-ended libertarianism, should take care. For the vacuous notion of liberty they now espouse is really a claim to the right to do as one pleases. This is the same idea about liberty as the "free marketeer" who brooks no interference with "choice", even if it wrecks society and the planet.

Liberty is indeed defined as the right to do as one pleases: as long as you are not harming others or restricting their rights to also find their own path from here to the grave. It\’s a very simple concept.

To expect the fulfilment by the citizen of his or her duties is no impertinence. It is essential to liberal democracy. Indeed, government ministers today speak hesitantly of a need for "constitutional renewal" or for a more "contractual" relationship between citizen and state. Under it, the performance of civic duties would be made a condition for the gaining of rights, many of the latter now routinely and shamelessly exploited by rich and poor alike.

So simple a concept that Selbourne doesn\’t in fact understand it. He prefers rather a feudal construction of the State. Yes, My Lord will indeed provide justice for me, but at a price: that I farm his desmense for him. Yes, My Lord will indeed defend me from foreigners, but at the expense of my fighting for him against the next Baron over. My Lord will indeed defend my rights to the common land: at the expense of his taking a tallage and a scutage of my production and of my belongings at my death.

We lived that way for some centuries, us Brits and English. And our ancestors decided, in their wisdom, that this wasn\’t the way that free men live. So they constructed a system of rights: these are not things which the State grants in return for duties to it, they are things which each and every man has as a simple corollary of being human. It took some centuries to build this system, to be sure, and no one would try to suggest that at any point along that long path that it has been perfect.

But to give up on that experiment? That noble journey towards that very freedom and liberty decried above? My right, as yours, to tread the path through this one time experience of life as I choose and not as is chosen for me, as long as I do not infringe upon the similar rights of others to do the same?

To return to a feudal system in which I owe duties to My Noble Lords in return for whatever rights they might see fit to grant me?

Fuck that quite frankly.

9 thoughts on “David Selbourne”

  1. “The left’s social ideals have been displaced by an open-ended libertarianism”?

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Wow, give me some of whatever he’s smoking.

  2. A lot depends on what duties you are asked to perform, and who is asked to perform them.
    If the duties are simply to observe the law and pay ones taxes, I don’t think it’s too controversial.
    Where people derive more from the State than I do – income and housing, for instance – they might be asked to perform more onerous civic duties. Again, not too much of a problem?

  3. The trouble comes when what our dear Hampstead left-wing mediacrats think is harming no-one else – because it doesn’t harm them – actually causes immense damage to those they don’t see, hear or even know. One can think of their long destruction of the concept of the family, duties, obligations and historically proven institutions leading to the chaos that now besets large swathes of the old working class.

    Libertarianism has to ensure it doesn’t became merely solipsistic utilitarianism.

  4. Well said Tim!

    Dan: “A lot depends on what duties you are asked to perform, and who is asked to perform them. If the duties are simply to observe the law and pay ones taxes, I don’t think it’s too controversial.”

    I’m not sure how one can ‘perform’ observing the law or pay one’s taxes. I think the problem here is with the word ‘perform’ – it implies some proactivity and in return you will be allowed some rights. It’s not at all in line with the (clearly right!) idea that “Liberty is defined as the right to do as one pleases” – and indeed Labour have their own definition, which is “Liberty is the right to do something if Labour allows it”.

    The Government and its supporters are confusing things, perhaps deliberately so, and they have given us little to no information on what duties we will be expected to ‘perform’.

    See Jack Straw for example on Thomas Paine – I get the impression from Straw that if you expect (say) freedom of speech you should be doing some sort of community service or pay extra tax, whereas Paine simply said that if you expect freedom of speech you should be willing to stand up for others having freedom of speech too.

    (Paine also said we had a duty to point out the defects of every government and constitution.)

  5. How do you deal with those whose ‘freedom’ is not yours?
    If their freedom is to drunkenly carouse all night – then what. Who prevails -them or you?

  6. He’s being serious, and really believes what he writes. Until he writes something else and then he believes that.

    As a Ruskin don he was the great Marxist guru who managed to fool quite a few people into taking him seriously. Then he conjured up a scandal by attacking the Wapping strikers, using the Sunday Times to do it.

    Now he advocates exactly the sort of society that he attacked in the Sunday Times article.

    I commented on this at the Guardian, but the post was deleted. The only person who could have taken offence was Dave Selbourne himself. Anyway, I have reposted the rant at my own blog.

    The man makes my piles itch.

  7. John Cramer:
    Let them carouse until they harm someone, just like we leave the potential robber alone until they rob someone.

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